SYRIA: “New levels of brutality” in Syria, including children’s rights abuses, finds new UN report

Summary: Syrian children continue to suffer gross violations of their human rights because of the conflict, according to a new UN report. Experts say death, injury, torture, sexual violence, arrest and detention and a lack of education and health facilities are just some of the horrific abuses of children’s rights happening now in Syria.

[6 June 2013] -

Children in Syria continue to suffer serious violations of their human rights  - including death and injury - as a result of the ongoing conflict, according to a UN report published this week.

In addition to the “new levels of brutality”, the report details just some of the horrific children’s rights abuses committed by Government and opposition forces, such as massacres of families, including children. In one particular incident in Tartous (Homs highway) a father, mother, grandmother and seven children were killed in their tents. When interviewed for the UN report a Government soldier recounted killing civilians, including young children, in their homes so that they wouldn’t give away their position to opposition groups.

Although such atrocities have been committed by both sides to the conflict, it has been widely reported that brutal acts by opposition groups have not reached the scale and intensity of those committed by Government forces.

The UN was due to hold an international conference in Geneva this month to try to find a political solution to the crisis, but this has now been pushed back to July. A date has yet to be fixed.

In its report, the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic lays out some of the children’s rights abuses caused by the conflict, including:

  • Death and injury: Children continue to be victims of Government shells and air bombardments, as well as attacks by armed opposition groups.

  • Government forces are arresting and detaining children (some as young as 12) in facilities, where torture is endemic, as punishment for exercising their rights at peaceful protests. A Human Rights Watch report from 2012 into the systemic and widespread use of torture by Government officers includes examples of children being tortured in these prisons.

  • There is an increase in the recruitment of child soldiers by armed opposition groups.

  • Half of the 6.8 million displaced people (both internally in conflict areas and as refugees in neighbouring countries) are children.

  • Schools - children’s education and right to protest: According to UNICEF, one fifth of Syria’s schools are being used for military purposes or as shelters, having a severe impact on hundreds of thousands of children’s education. A Human Rights Watch report (Safe No More, published 6 June 2013) found that teachers and Government forces interrogate and beat school students for alleged anti-Government activity, and Government troops have carried out violent assaults on children’s protests and their schools. The report also says that both armed opposition groups and Government forces use schools as military bases, barracks, detention centers, and sniper posts, “turning places of learning into military targets”.

  • Government and opposition sieges have caused health and nutrition crises that disproportionately affect young children and nursing mothers, and medical professionals have said children have died from malnutrition and lack of medicine because of the conflict.

In addition to what is mentioned in the UN report, rape and other forms of sexual violence are believed to be systematic and widespread, and with child victims. Girl refugees are especially vulnerable here and are also at risk of forced marriage. The scale of psychological impact of the conflict, particularly on children, remains unknown. “Children Under Fire”, a report published by Save the Children in March this year, gives more specifics on children’s rights violations in Syria and details the death, trauma and suffering these children are facing everyday.

The UN report was released on 4 June 2013 during the Human Rights Council’s 23rd session in Geneva, and covers the period between 15 January and 15 May. Other reports can be found on the Independent Commission’s webpage.

Also during its 23rd session, the Human Rights Council held an urgent debate on the human rights situation in Syria last week where Ms Navi Pillay, UN High Commission for Human Rights, said:

“The situation in Syria reflects a colossal failure to protect civilians. Day after day, children, women and men suffer the brutality of unbridled violence and gross human rights violations by all parties.”

“This Council should send a clear message to all parties to the conflict, and the extended actors willingly or unwillingly fuelling it: the conflict must cease with an immediate cease-fire; the flows of arms must stop; the process of national dialogue must begin now.”


Owner: Child Rights International Network

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