UN reports children in Syria being killed at higher rate than in 2013
Children are being killed or maimed in Syria’s civil war at a rate higher than five years ago, with the regime’s barrel bomb attacks and air strikes among the largest cause of fatalities, a UN Security Council report revealed on Wednesday.
Investigators verified 12,537 offences against children, with all parties to the conflict guilty of breaching international law affecting minors. With the conflict now in its eighth year, boys and girls continue to be recruited for combat roles, including by the government. Children and Armed Conflict
in the Syrian Arab Republic, covered the period between November 16, 2013 and the end of June this year. Fighting in that time, as well as the large number of countries and groups involved, mean the numbers are likely to be a gross underestimate, the UN said.
“All parties to the conflict have flagrantly violated their obligations to protect children under international humanitarian and human rights law,” the report said. “Indiscriminate attacks, including aerial attacks and the use of barrel bombs by government forces were the primary cause of death and maiming among children.”
Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s forces have taken the upper hand in the war over the past year but the prospects of any end to fighting appear dim.
The Geneva peace talks – a UN process – has foundered to the point of not being taken seriously. A rival Astana peace process led by Russia, Iran and Turkey, and based on their interests, resumed on Wednesday in Kazakhstan.
Those present discussed a crumbling 10-week truce in the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib after confrontations between insurgents and the government this week threatened to derail the agreement.
Although Staffan de Mistura, the outgoing UN special envoy to Syria, was in Astana, the item he was expected to discuss – the formation of a committee to draft a new Syrian constitution – does not seem to be on the official agenda for the two-day talks.
The violence continues, with children being recruited as soldiers. Wednesday’s UN report said the numbers of what it called “grave violations” had mostly increased year by year. There were 2,285 in 2014, 2,740 in 2015, 3,151 in 2016 and 3,009 last year. In the first six months of this year the UN verified 1,291 grave offences.
The UN said 3,377 children – 3,150 boys and 227 girls – were recruited, with 82 per cent of them serving in a combat role.
Those numbers have also risen in the past five years. Just over 350 children were recruited in 2014, 538 in 2015, 1,034 in 2016 and 1,142 in 2017, with children overall being pressganged into service at a younger age, the report said.
Verified cases were attributed to groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, as well as ISIS, Kurdish armed groups (the People’s Protection Units, or YPG), government forces and pro-government militias.
Seventy-six recruited children were identified as foreigners coming from more than a dozen countries.
Almost every faction in Syria’s war is accused of putting children into combat roles Reuters