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UN details grave child abuses in Syria and 20 other countries

UN details grave child abuses in Syria and 20 other countries
UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon has issued a report on children in armed conflict, detailing grave abuse going on in Syria and other countries, adding a few new members to the so-called “list of shame” of child abusers.

Although the report accuses Syrian rebels of recruiting children, it also accuses the government of detaining minors who side with the rebels, and allegedly extracting information out of them with torture.

Ban ki-Moon has condemned the abuse of children’s rights in the given conflict zones as “unacceptable and unbearable.”

The report covers 21 countries – among them also Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR). A total of 55 armed groups from 14 countries have been added to the list, each for varying types of child abuse.

In Mali, 12-15 year-olds were recruited by the hundreds to fight alongside rebel groups like the Tuareg tribe, or the MNLA, MUJAO and Ansar Dine. The same has been said for pro-government militias.

Ban ki-Moon’s report criticizes the Syrian government for failing to prevent its intelligence services from using detention and torture of children as a means of getting information, as well as alleging that sexual abuse is also taking place. The report then talks about child recruitment happening on the rebel side – usually children between 15 and 17.

Despite the grim information, there were details of progress in child protection being achieved in other conflict zones, with action plans and strategies being put in place in South Sudan, Myanmar and the DRC, as well as Somalia – all targeting the recruitment of minors.

"In 2012, boys and girls from several countries had better protection from the effects of conflict, but new and ongoing crises in Mali, Central African Republic and Syria for example had — and continue to have — a devastating effect on children," said the secretary-general’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui.

The secretary-general’s report also informs that both the Syrian government and the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces had both spoken to Zerrougi, reassuring her of their commitment to working together with the United Nations at tackling the problems of child abuse, recruitment and torture.

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