Syrian Children Endure 'Unspeakable' Suffering - UN Report
A new report shows children have endured "unspeakable and unacceptable" suffering during the conflict in Syria, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says.
Children have been sexually abused and tortured in government detention, while rebels have recruited them in support roles and for combat, the report warns.
It estimates that more than 10,000 children have been killed. Many more have been injured or have disappeared.
The report, which covers the period 1 March 2011 to 15 November 2013, says that in the early stages of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, violations were mostly committed by the Syrian military, intelligence services and pro-government militias.
Then, as the fighting intensified and the armed opposition became more organised, an increasing number committed by rebel groups were documented.
Witnesses said the abuses included "beatings with metal cables, whips and wooden and metal batons; electric shocks, including to the genitals; the ripping out of fingernails and toenails; sexual violence, including rape or threats of rape; mock executions; cigarette burns; sleep deprivation; solitary confinement; and exposure to the torture of relatives".
Investigators documented reports of sexual violence perpetrated by intelligence and military personnel against children suspected of being affiliated with the opposition, the report says.
Witnesses said sexual violence was used to humiliate, harm, force confessions or pressure a relative to surrender. It reportedly included "electric shocks to, or burning of, the genitals, and the rape of boys and, in a few instances, of girls".
Allegations of sexual violence by rebel groups were also received, but the investigators were unable to further investigate them "owing to lack of access".
The UN report also highlights the recruitment of children, both in support roles and for combat, by rebel groups, including the Western-backed Free Syrian Army. Boys aged 12 to 17 years have been trained, armed and used as combatants or to man checkpoints, it says.
"Interviews with children and their parents indicated that the loss of parents and relatives, political mobilization and peer pressure from families and communities, contributed to the involvement of children with FSA-affiliated groups," it adds.