Moral Low Ground


UN: Assad Forces Torturing, Executing Children

Some of the dozens of children slaughtered by regime forces in Houla last month.

A new United Nations report accuses troops loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad of torturing and executing children, as well as using children as human shields.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the UN’s annual report on children and armed conflict, released Tuesday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, cites shocking abuse of children by Syrian government troops as well as a militia loyal to President Assad.

That militia, the fanatically loyal Shabiha, mostly recruits its members from the Assad family’s minority Alawite sect of Shi’ite Muslims. Most of their victims have been Sunnis, who comprise around 75% of Syria’s population of 20.4 million.

Shabiha militiamen are suspected of carrying out horrific massacres in which children have been executed in their beds and homes have been burned with their occupants inside.

The UN report cites eyewitness accounts and testimonies of former regime troops who’ve defected. It details the torture, sexual abuse and execution of children, with boys as young as 10 being tortured and infants being murdered in their beds or burned alive.

It also mentions the use of children as human shields by regime troops entering rebel strongholds.

“We are really quite shocked. Killing and maiming of children in crossfire is something we come across in many conflicts,” UN children’s official Radhika Coomaraswamy, told the BBC onTuesday. “But this torture of children in detention, children as young as 10, is something quite extraordinary, which we really don’t see in other places.”

Coomaraswamy added:

“We have seen children. They’ve described to my technical team of being beaten, of being scarred by cigarette burns and whipped with electrical cables. Cases of sexual torture were also recorded against these children. So the torture of children in detention is something quite horrific. In addition, we have evidence of children being used as human shields. In the Ayn l’Arouz village, for example, children from that village described how in a bus that was carrying military personnel, the children were put up against the window so as to protect the bus from being attacked.”

It is estimated that at least 1,000 of the 10,000 or so people who have died in Syria’s 15-month-old conflict between anti-government rebels and the Assad regime have been children.

The UN report also faults the rebel Syrian Free Army for endangering the lives of children by making them perform tasks that place them in the line of fire.

In other Syria news, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous Tuesday declared that the Syrian conflict has escalated into a full-scale civil war. Ladsous also said that regime forces are using attack helicopters to strike rebels and their supporters.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accused Russia of providing helicopter gunships to prop up the Assad regime, an allegation denied by Sergey Lavrov, her counterpart in Moscow.


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