Damascus: A crucial report released by the United Nations on Tuesday alleged that the Syrian troops have tortured children, executed them and used children as young as eight as "human shields" during military raids against rebels.
The United Nations branded the Syrian government as one of the worst offenders on its annual "list of shame" of conflict countries where children are killed, tortured and forced to fight.
Human rights groups estimate that about 1,200 children have died during the 15-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, whose brutal crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired protests has been widely condemned.
The reports includes Syrian government forces and their allied Shabiha militias for the first time on a list of 52 governments and armed groups that recruit, kill or sexually attack children in armed conflicts.
In Syria, children as young as nine years old have been victims of killing and maiming, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, and sexual violence, and have been used as human shields, the report said.
Some children said they had been forced to ride on tanks to stop attacks by opposition fighters, the report said.
"In almost all recorded cases, children were among the victims of military operations by government forces, including the Syrian armed forces, the intelligence forces and the shabiha militia, in their ongoing conflict with the opposition, including the Free Syrian Army," the report said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon`s annual report on children and armed conflict during 2011 names 32 "persistent perpetrators" that have been on the list for at least five years, including the security forces of seven countries. That`s double the number in 2010, and Ban expressed grave concern at "the unacceptably high, and growing, number" of long-term abusers of children.
Radhika Kumaraswamy, the UN special representative for children and armed conflict, said that while new crises erupted in 2011 "with a heavy toll on children such as in Syria, and also in Libya, violations against girls and boys have come to an end in other parts of the world."
But the so-called "list of shame" with 52 names — including four new parties in Syria, Yemen and Sudan — is still too long, she said in a statement.
A resolution adopted by the UN Security Council in 2005 took the first major step to prevent the victimization of young people in war zones by addressing the exploitation of children as combatants and identifying governments and armed groups that recruit child soldiers.
In 2009, the council voted to also name and shame countries and insurgent groups engaged in conflicts that lead to children being killed, maimed and raped.
Ban said the United Nations has received reports of "grave violations" against children in Syria since March 2011, when protests against President Bashar Assad`s government began.
With Agency Input