Children of Syria… The Glaring Letdown
On the Universal Children’s Day, SNHR has released its special annual report which is dedicated to documenting violations against children by the parties to the conflict in Syria. The report is entitled: “Children of Syria… The Glaring Letdown”
The report notes that Syria is the worst country in the world with respect to a range of violations against children, as the Syrian regime has been the party who is primarily responsible for these violations since 2011, despite the fact that the Syrian government had ratified the CRC (The Conventions on the Right of the Child)
According to the report, children of Syria have suffered from cumulative ramifications that resulted from the daily bombardment and destruction as nearly 1,378 schools and kindergarten have been damaged, as the number of out-of-school children has exceeded 3.2 million children in Syria. The health sector was also affected as vaccination rates have dropped, and wide parts of the infrastructure has been destroyed, resulting in the spread of hepatitis, due to people resorting to drinking water from wells. Many neighborhoods have been destroyed almost completely, forcing the Syrian family to displace, whether inside Syria or abroad, as a new kind of suffering had surfaced – with 60% of refugee children denied education, and forced into labor.
The report adds that the UNHCR numbers suggest that 230,000 children at least have been born in refugee camps. Many of those children weren’t able to acquire identification papers, as the huge challenges of fighting the phenomenon of the deprivation of nationality are significantly rising.
The report also stresses that the United Nations Secretary General’s report on children and armed conflicts, published on August 24, 2017, didn’t accurately reflect the catastrophic reality of Syria.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, says:
“The Syrian regime didn’t uphold its responsibilities with respect to the UNCRC, as the regime violated those rights heavily and ceaselessly. The 192 states that ratified the Convention, on the other hand, have failed to take action to deter the Syrian regime. All of us need to come together to stop a regime that perpetrated crimes against humanity against children from escaping justice, and to contribute seriously and quickly to holding those who were responsible for this accountable, for there is no justice without accountability.”
The report sheds light on the violations by the parties to the conflict in Syria against children between March 2011 and November 20, 2017, and highlights the most notable of these violations.
The report draws upon the ongoing monitoring of incidents and news by SNHR team who collect and verify these news, as well as evidences and statements, in addition to analyzing videos and pictures that were posted online, or sent to SNHR by local activists via e-mail, Skype, or social media. Some of these videos show wounded and dead children, where some of those died under rubble, while other videos show children who starved to death or died of diseases in Eastern Ghouta.
The report documents the killing of 21,631 children by Syrian regime forces since March 2011, including 186 children who suffocated to death in chemical attacks, and 209 children who were killed in attacks by the Syrian regime that involved the use of cluster munitions or were killed in explosions of old cluster remnants. Additionally, the report records that no less than 289 children have died as a result of the siege imposed by Syrian regime forces.
No less than 12,007 children have been arrested by Syrian regime forces. Of those, 3,007 are still under arrest, at the time of this writing, as most of the recorded arrest cases, the report notes, qualify as enforced-disappearance cases.
According to the report, no less than 1,123 children and 24 kindergartens have been damaged in indiscriminate or deliberate bombardments by Syrian regime forces.
The report notes that Russian forces have killed no less than 1,529 children since September 30, 2015, including 32 children who were killed in 217 cluster attacks by Russian forces. The report adds that no less than 144 schools have been damaged in Russian attacks, while tens of thousands of children have been displaced.
The report also sheds light on the violations by the Kurdish Self-Management forces in their areas of control, such as extrajudicial killing and conscription. The report notes that 127 were killed by Self-Management forces, while 503 children are still under arrest or forcibly-disappeared at the Kurdish Self-Management forces detention centers.
The report stresses that 711 children were killed in indiscriminate shelling by ISIS, during clashes, or as a result of the executions that were carried out by ISIS. The report also notes that ISIS practiced other types of violations such as trafficking and selling children, as well as rape by the way of forced marriage, in addition to recruiting children in what is called “Cubs Camps” and, in other cases, through using them as human shields. The number of children who were arrested by ISIS is no less than 386 children according to the report.
In addition, the report notes that Hay’at Tahrir al Sham has killed 88 children and arrested no less than 25 others.
According to the report, international coalition forces have killed 723 children since their attacks started in Syria on September 23, 2014, while 23 schools were damaged in their attacks.
Furthermore, the report records that factions from the armed opposition have killed 936 children – mostly in indiscriminate shelling operations by forces from the opposition who target Syrian regime-held areas. Additionally, 305 children were arrested by factions from the armed opposition, while the report stresses that children were used in some of the military activities. Also, 23 schools and one kindergarten were damaged in attacks by armed opposition factions.
The report records that 701 children have been killed since March 2011 by other parties, while 19 schools and two kindergartens were damaged by unidentified parties as well.
The report stresses that government forces and its pro-government militias have perpetrated acts that qualify as crimes against humanity against the children of Syria through systematic, widespread killing, as well as torture, and sexual violence in a manner that explicitly violates Article 7 of Rome Statute, while these forces committed other acts that amount to war crimes through conscription, starvation, and besieging entire populations, including women and children, which constitute a blatant violation to the international humanitarian law and the relevant Security Council Resolutions.
The report adds that Russian forces concentrated their bombardments on populated areas and facilities, resulting the death of tens of Syrian children. All of these indiscriminate attacks constitute war crimes. Furthermore, the report sheds light on the Self-Management forces’ practices that constitute war crimes, as these forces carried out indiscriminate shelling operations that resulted in the killing of a number of children and practiced conscription.
According to the report, extremist Islamic groups have recruited hundreds of children who are younger than 15 of age, and practiced torture against detained children inside their detention centers, in addition to the indiscriminate shelling operations that resulted in the killing of many children. All of this constitute war crimes.
The report stresses that different factions from the armed opposition have recruited tens of children, while the indiscriminate shelling by some of the armed opposition factions have resulted in the killing of number of children, which constitute war crimes.
The report emphasizes that attacks by international coalition forces have resulted in losses that involved loss of lives-including children- injuries, and major damages to civilian objects. There are strong indicators suggesting that the damage was too excessive in relation to the anticipated military benefit.
The report calls on the international community to protect and assist the children who were forcibly displaced, IDPs and refugees, especially girls who need particular and special care with respect to protecting them in particular. The report adds that the international community should uphold its obligations with respect to the CRC, and take serious steps to take down the Syrian regime, expose its practices, and put an end to them as soon as possible. Also, the report calls for supporting the accountability efforts in Syria – most notably the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism that was established by the UN General Assembly, the Commission of Inquiry that was established by the Human Rights Council, and the active national human rights organizations. The report also calls for exposing the states that are trying to rehabilitate and support the perpetrators of crimes against humanity against the children in Syria.
The report stresses that all possible legal, political, and financial measures should be taken against the Syrian regime and its allies as well as against all perpetrators of violations in the armed conflict to apply pressure in order to compel them to respect children’s rights. Also, the report calls for respecting the pledges of financial donations that have been made, in addition to delivering aids to the besieged children and forcing the Syrian regime, first and foremost, to lift the siege, instead of resorting to dropping aids from the air. In addition, all possible efforts should be made to help and support the neighboring countries to improve education and health services in these countries that have taken the majority of the children refugees.
The report also calls for finding mechanisms that aim to end the shelling on schools and protect them, and working on creating and sustaining a safe learning environment, which is the least that can be done to protect civilians. The report considers the issue of the children of Syria an international concern, as all states should take action to ease its ramifications through supporting schools and the educational and medical processes inside Syria and for children refugees.
The report recommends that aid efforts should be coordinated according to the most-affected areas. The pressure and blackmailing by the Syrian regime for the sake of redirecting the flow of aids to its favor should be ignored, while sufficient resources should be devoted to rehabilitate children while taking into consideration the special case of girls that have been directly affected by violations, and those who have fallen victim of sexual exploit.
The report stresses that the refugees coming out of Syria should be able to seek asylum and their rights should be respected, including non-refoulement. The states of the European Union and other countries should ease the load on the neighboring countries by taking in more Syrian refugees. Also, the report calls on the donor states to improve their support for the UNHCR and the local community organizations in states of refuge.
The report calls on the UNHCR to create a stable, safe environment for children refugees and focus more on reintegrating them within their communities through long-term psychological support, and enhance the investment in education and health.
The report emphasizes that the Syrian regime should uphold its obligations with respect to the CRC, the two Covenants (ICCPR & ICESCR), and Geneva Agreements. In addition, the parties to the conflict should cease the deliberate targeting of schools and kindergartens, as well as residential areas, where children and their families live, and cease the killing and disfigurement of children, in addition to immediately releasing all detained children – especially who were detained in the context of the armed conflict. The report also calls on the parties to the conflict to respect the international laws on detaining children, particularly girls.