Islamic State jihadists raped girls as young as nine and forced them into sexual slavery, according to a new UN-backed report into Syria’s civil war.
Investigators say the report is the first of its kind to focus solely on the plight of children entangled in the bloody conflict.
The Commission of Inquiry for Syria compiled more than 5,000 interviews over eight years with Syrian kids who had been robbed of their childhood, as well as with witnesses, survivors, relatives, medical professionals, defectors and fighters.
One six-year-old boy imitated the hanging of a toddler after watching a public execution, while a ten-year-old girl told her mother she would die of hunger.
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The report detailed how young children had been targeted by sniper fire and used as bargaining chips to extract ransoms, how Islamic State jihadists had raped girls as young as nine and forced them into sexual slavery, and how al-Qaida-linked fighters had tortured boys, forced them into military training and ordered them to carry out public killings.
“After eight years of conflict, children in Syria have experienced unabated violations of their rights: they continue to be killed, maimed, injured and orphaned, bearing the brunt of violence perpetrated by warring parties,” the report said.
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It described the bombing of hospitals and schools, leaving 2.1 million children unable to regularly attend class.
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It also covered the serious and long-term physical and mental impact of boys and girls.
The report did not include child casualties, citing difficulty in checking facts in a country where the investigators are barred from visiting.
However, it did say that five million children had been “robbed of their childhood” by being forcibly displaced in and outside of Syria by all sides of the conflict.
It noted pro-government fighters as “regularly targeting children using sniper fire” and deploying cluster munitions, thermobaric bombs and chemical weapons “often against civilian objects such as schools and hospitals.”
Commission of Inquiry chair Paulo Pinheiro said he was appalled at the “flagrant disregard” for human rights laws by “all parties involved in the conflict”.
He was particularly concerned that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government continued to ignore its responsibility under international law to respect human rights on its territory.
“While the government of the Syrian Arab Republic has the primary responsibility for the protection of boys and girls in the country, all of the actors in this conflict must do more to protect children and preserve the country’s future generation,” he said.
The inquiry listed recommendations for the warring sides, Syria’s government and the international community.
But it suspected many of its calls would go unanswered.
Source : Sky News