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First UN report on child abuse in Syria conflict

A new UN report claims children and young people in Syria have experienced serious abuses in the near 3-year conflict. The investigation highlights "unspeakable suffering," including torture and sexual abuse.

The first ever UN report on the subject of child abuse in the Syria conflict, published late Tuesday, covered the period from March 2011 to November 2013.

It is alleged that youngsters had been tortured, maimed and sexually abused by President Bashar al-Assad's forces - it is also claimed children as young as 11 had been detained by the authorities on suspicion of having links with armed groups.

A summary of the investigation posted on the UN's website said government forces were responsible for the arrest, arbitrary detention, ill treatment and torture of children.

Catalogue of abuse

Youngsters in government custody had reportedly suffered beatings with metal cables, whips, and wooden and metal batons - they had also been subjected to electric shocks and sexual violence, including rape or threats of rape, the ripping out of fingernails and toenails, mock executions, cigarette burns, sleep deprivation and solitary confinement, and exposure to the torture of relatives, the report said.

The document highlighted what

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

termed the "unspeakable suffering" experienced by children in the country's near 3-year conflict.

UN investigators also criticized rebels for "recruitment and use of children both in combat and support roles, as well as for conducting military operations."

Investigators also received allegations of sexual violence by opposition groups, but the UN was unable to look further into them due to lack of access to areas under rebel control, the report said.

During the first two years of the conflict, most killings and maiming of children were attributed to government forces, the UN report said, but during 2013, opposition forces have increasingly "engaged in such acts."

The summary did not mention any specific incidents, but some of the most notorious massacres in the

Syria war

included many children among the victims.

'Countless killings'

In the report, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the summary highlights that the "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."

It also warned that children experienced a high level of distress by witnessing the killing and injuring of members of their families and peers.

The UN did not clearly state how the investigation into child abuse in the Syria conflict was carried out nor how the information was obtained.

lw/dr (AP, AFP)

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