The plight of children in armed conflict emerges takes center stage about midway through a report recently submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Last month’s Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic is a sad chronicle of “grave human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity” that Syrians have suffered in the 2-years-on conflict, at the hands of rebel forces and, more frequently, of forces allied with the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Pages 79-87 of the report focus on the suffering of Syrian children, and so add detail to other depictions. Noting that in 2010, before the conflict began, 40% of Syrians were under 18, the report states:
‘[C]hildren have faced widespread violations of their rights. Children of both sexes have been unlawfully killed and wounded; they have been subjected to, and possibly singled out for, sexual violence. They have been subjected to other forms of torture in detention facilities, checkpoints, and during military and security force operations.’
(para. 1) The report details each of these offenses and the resulting deprivations of children’s rights to life and security of person, to health and well-being, to education. Schools have been targeted, medical treatment denied. (paras. 18-22) (credit for (c) AP photo of schoolroom destroyed in attack) And notwithstanding Syria’s 2003 accession to the 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, “the Government is enlisting young men arrested at checkpoints or during attacks on civilian areas. … Another interviewee said that boys aged 12 and over would face such harassment.” (paras. 24-25) The report maintains that armed groups “are using children for active participation in hostilities.” (para. 28) Refugee camps are filled with unaccompanied minors; in one camp, 97% were said to be boys whose families had sent them away so that they might avoid joining the fight. (para. 38)
The report is one in a 2-year series by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. Though each report has drawn some media attention, none has yet moved policymakers to resolve the crisis.