Children in Syria have been tortured, maimed and sexually abused by President Bashar Assad’s forces and recruited for combat by the rebels fighting to topple him during the country’s near-three-year-old conflict, a United Nations report said.
The report, which highlights the treatment of children in the conflict from the beginning of the uprising against Assad in March 2011 until November 15, 2013, was released this week to the Security Council.
It cites UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon as saying that Syrian children have been subjected to “unspeakable suffering”.
Ban urged Syria’s warring sides to “take, without delay, all measures to protect and uphold the rights of all children in Syria”.
The uprising against Assad’s rule began with largely peaceful protests in 2011 but evolved into a bloody civil war that has killed more than 130,000. The conflict has hit the country’s children hard.
The UN said government forces have been responsible for the arrest, arbitrary detention, ill treatment and torture of children.
Children as young as 11 have been detained on suspicion of having links with armed groups.
Children in government custody have reportedly suffered beatings with metal cables, whips and wooden and metal batons, electric shock and sexual violence, including rape or threats of rape, mock executions, cigarette burns, sleep deprivation and solitary confinement, the report said.
It was not clear what methodology was used and the summary of the report did not say how investigators obtained their information.
Allegations of sexual violence by opposition groups were also received, but the UN was unable to further investigate them due to lack of access to areas under rebel control.
While Assad’s forces have used children as human shields in the fighting, the report also blasted rebels for “recruitment and use of children both in combat and support roles.”
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