A man rides a motorbike past a damaged building in Maaret Al Naaman town in Syria’s Idlib province, yesterday.
UNITED NATIONS: Children enduring the war in Syria have suffered terrible abuses, with the government and allied militia responsible for many killings, maiming and torture, according to a grim UN report.
Rebels have also recruited youngsters as soldiers and used terror tactics in civilian areas, according to the UN’s first report on this area of the conflict that was released to the Security Council.
It detailed gruesome incidents of torture including children being raped or beaten with metal cables, suffering electric shocks to the genitals and having their fingernails ripped out.
“Violations must come to an end now,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in the report.
“I therefore urge all parties to the conflict to take, without delay, all measures to protect and uphold the rights of all children in Syria.”
The report covered the period from March 1, 2011 to November 15 last year in a conflict that has now left more than 135,000 people dead. It details a series of abuses Syrian children have suffered since the opposition rose up to try to depose President Bashar Al Assad.
They range from direct commission of abuse, including sexual violence, to more general violation of their rights, from school closures and denial of access to humanitarian aid, the UN website said, quoting from the report.
“The present report highlights that use of weaponry and military tactics that are disproportionate and indiscriminate by Government forces and associated militias has resulted in countless killings and the maiming of children, and has obstructed children’s access to education and health services,” Ban wrote.
“Government forces have also been responsible for the arrest, arbitrary detention, ill treatment and torture of children,” he added.
“Armed opposition groups have been responsible for the recruitment and use of children both in combat and support roles, as well as for conducting military operations, including using terror tactics, in civilian-populated areas, leading to civilian casualties, including children.”
The report highlights the disappearance of many children and says all parties to the war have seriously hampered delivery of humanitarian assistance in areas most affected by the fighting.
It also warned that children have experienced a high level of distress by witnessing the killing and injuring of members of their families and peers, or of being separated from their family and/or displaced.
The report details the detention of children as young as 11 for alleged association with armed groups by government forces in large-scale arrest campaigns.
It says youngsters were ill-treated and tortured to extract confessions or humiliate them, or pressure a relative to surrender or confess.
“Ill treatment and acts tantamount to torture reportedly included beatings with metal cables, whips and wooden and metal batons; electric shock, 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,” the report said.
THE HAGUE: Syria missed yet another key deadline in destroying its chemical stockpile when it failed yesterday to have “less dangerous” chemicals removed from its soil under an internationally-brokered agreement.
Asked whether the February 5 deadline to have so-called “category two” chemicals removed had been met, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) spokesman Michael Luhan said: “There is no reason to comment. The situation is evident.”
In addition to 700 tonnes of the most lethal chemicals — that should have left the war-wracked country on December 31 — an additional 500 tonnes of “category two” chemicals was supposed to have been shipped out by yesterday. Sources involved in the process last month already indicated that the second deadline would not be met, putting disarmament weeks behind schedule.
So far just two small shipments of chemicals have so far left the Syrian port of Latakia, accounting for less than four percent of the country’s declared arsenal of most dangerous chemicals, the United States said last month.
Last week the world’s chemical watchdog also called on Damascus to “pick up the pace”, echoing similar sentiments by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Syria has told the OPCW that it is “making intensive efforts to prepare for, and accelerate, the transportation of chemicals, and that it is currently working on a tentative schedule for completing the transportation of chemicals”.
The UN Security Council last year backed a US-Russian deal to destroy Syria’s vast chemical arsenal as a way to avert US strikes threatened after chemical attacks near Damascus that Washington blamed on the regime. Under the agreement, Syria’s entire chemical arsenal is to be eliminated by June 30.
Syria has declared around 700 tonnes of most-dangerous chemicals, 500 tonnes of less-dangerous precursor chemicals and around 122 tonnes of isopropanol — which can be used to make sarin nerve gas — its arsenal. AFP