Click here to complete our Survey about Human Rights after Brexit

Syria: Children risk death, recruitment and detention

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has released a report that states – upon reviewing last month’s Secretary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict – Syria is “either the worst or amongst the worst countries worldwide” in several types of violations.

The Secretary-General’s annual report highlights a number of trends relating to the impact of armed conflict and children, including in Syria. As a primary source of violations in Syria, through cooperation and partnership with the UNICEF Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM), the SNHR also conducts “a comparison between the violations against children that we recorded in our database in 2019, and the data on violations in Syria released in the Secretary-General’s report for the same year”.

SNHR found that the data included in the Secretary-General’s report was largely comparable to their own data and classified Syria as:

1. The worst country in the world in terms of killings and attacks on schools.

2. The second worst country in the world in terms of the recruitment of children and attacks on hospitals.

3. The fourth worst country in the world in terms of detentions and denial of humanitarian access.

Killings and attacks on schools

The Secretary-General’s report verified the killing and maiming of some 10,713 children worldwide, of which 4,019 were killed.

In Syria, the report revealed that the United Nations verified 2,638 serious violations affecting 2,292 children, the foremost of which being killings, with 897 children having been confirmed killed in 2019. The SNHR say in their report that these figures make it:

“The worst country in the world in terms of killings and the third worst country in the world in terms of both killings and maimings after Afghanistan, Israel and the Palestinian state.”

Before adding:

“Syrian Regime forces were the worst offender amongst all the parties to the conflict in terms of killings and maiming, being responsible for the death or maiming of 724 children”

In relation to attacks on schools, the report recorded 494 such attacks. Of this total, 157 occurred in Syria, making it the worst in the world. The SNHR also notes the report reaffirms Syria’s status as “the third worst country globally in terms of using schools for military purposes”.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (People’s Protection Units / Women’s Protection Units) were the worst offenders amongst all the parties in Syria in terms of using schools and hospitals for military purposes, doing so 18 out of 32 times, followed by the Syrian Regime forces who did so 13 times and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham who did so once.

The SNHR database had the incidents of attacks on schools higher, with 219 incidents documented in 2019. The SNHR classified an incident as “by bombardment or by their being repurposed as military headquarters.”.

Recruitment of children and attacks on hospitals

In total, the Secretary-General’s report recorded 7,747 – some as young as six – as having been recruited and used, with 90% of this total being recruited by non-state actors. The only country who recruited more children than Syria was Somalia.

Syria recruited 820 children in 2019, with Syrian Democratic Forces being the worst offenders with 306 cases, shortly followed by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham with 245 cases.

The report also indicates that 433 attacks on hospitals were recorded, with 105 of these occurring in Syria, making it the second worst country in the world for such crimes after Palestine.

Detention and denial of humanitarian access

In terms of detention of children, the report found that 218 children were detained or deprived of their liberty in Syria during 2019. This was out of 2,500 children detained or deprived of liberty worldwide.

This figure meant that Syria was the fourth worst country in the world in this context, with only Iraq, Palestine and Somalia detaining more children.

The Secretary-General’s report found the Syrian Democratic Forces to be the worst offender, being responsible for 194 cases.

The last key issue identified relates to the denial of humanitarian access. The report found that some 4,400 incidents of the denial of humanitarian access had been verified in 2019, with Syria the fourth worst country. In this aspect, Syria accounted for 84 of the incidents verified in the Secretary-General’s report. Syrian Regime forces were the worst offenders, responsible for 59 of these incidents.

The report also indicated other violations against children in Syria, albeit to a lesser comparative degree, including sexual violence. It is worth noting however that sexual violence in conflict is always chronically underreported and the recent report is unlikely to reflect the true gravity of the issue.

SNHR Conclusions

The SNHR report stresses the “importance and vitality of the work of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism in Syria,” adding that they as an organisation will continue to cooperate and share data, as they consider the Secretary-General’s report as an “essential component in the course of attaining justice by exposing the perpetrators of violations and putting pressure on them and on their backers”.

Before adding:

“This will pave the way for progress in leading the way to a transitional justice process moving towards long-awaited stability, democracy and human rights, and thus ensuring that these horrific violations against Syria’s children are not repeated in the future.”

However, they also stress that these violations are still ongoing in 2020 and the fact that Syria is the worst or among the worst in so many metrics, the country needs “greater amount of assistance compared to other countries and regions”.

They also point out that more needs to be done to hold the allies of the perpetrators to account, singling out the Russian and Iranian regimes.

The report calls on supporting states and the European Union to allocate more resources to UNICEF in general and to the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism in particular.

SNHR also calls for UN Security Council to issue a resolution which “stipulates the condemnation of violations, in particular those that constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes, to threaten immediate intervention to protect children from these crimes if they are repeated, in accordance with Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, and to put real pressure on all parties to the conflict to stop all violations against children.”

Sign up to our Newsletter

Enter your name and email address below to receive regular updates from us

Sign up to our Newsletter

Enter your name and email address below to receive regular updates from us