Syrian government forces and militia loyal to the Assad regime are killing and sexually abusing children and using them as human shields, the UN says, amid fears that the conflict is intensifying.
Kofi Annan said he was “gravely concerned” about the escalation of fighting in Syria, citing the shelling of opposition areas in central Homs province and reports of mortar, helicopter and tank attacks in the town of Haffa and its surrounding villages in Latakia province on the Mediterranean coast. The US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland voiced fears about reports that the regime “may be organising another massacre” in Latakia, where UN monitors have been impeded.
The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s annual report on children and armed conflict during 2011 included Syrian government forces and the allied shabiha for the first time on a list of 52 governments and armed groups that recruit, kill or sexually attack children in armed conflicts.
“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 says.
The report quotes a witness to an attack on the village of Ayn l’Arouz in Idlib province on 9 March 2012 in which several dozen boys and girls between the ages of eight and 13 were forcibly taken from their homes and “used by soldiers and militia members as human shields, placing them in front of the windows of buses carrying military personnel into the raid on the village”. The UN said it had collected dozens of witness accounts from children as young as 14 who were tortured in detention, as well as from former members of the Syrian military who were forced to witness or carry out acts of torture, the report says.
Most child victims of torture described being beaten, blindfolded, subjected to stress positions, whipped with heavy electrical cables, scarred by cigarette burns and in one case subjected to electrical shock to the genitals, the report says. One witness reported seeing a boy about 15 years old die as a result of repeated beatings.
Go to Hell, Bashar al-Assad.
In the situation that we have in Syria, you cannot go to a hospital, because if you do, they either amputate the limb that you are suffering from or they take you to prison.
I was detained twice and what we saw is that some of those in prison are left to have their wounds rot. Their injuries rotted and they were not taken to hospital. Some died next to me, while others were urinating blood from the internal bleeding they were suffering from.
And no organizations or doctors or MSF are allowed to go into prison. The field hospital [is normally in someone’s house, moving from one house to another]. There were no ambulances; any ambulance was targeted and shot at. And the doctors who are brave enough are also watched or arrested, or they rape his wife in order to prevent him from taking any action. Or they place them under house arrest.
A 29-year-old male patient from Syria.
While Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been unable to work directly in Syria, we have collected testimonies from wounded patients treated outside the country and from doctors inside Syria.
The testimonies, which come from people hailing from various parts of the country, point to a coordinated crackdown on the provision of urgent medical care for people wounded in the ongoing violence.(via doctorswithoutborders)
After a second day of meetings with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, a United Nations envoy left Damascus on Sunday without securing a deal to end the nearly year-old conflict, which ground on with heavy shelling in the northern province of Idlib.
The envoy, Kofi Annan, a former secretary general of the United Nations, said he remained optimistic about the possibility of an agreement, but he acknowledged the difficulties. “You have to start by stopping the killing and the misery and the abuse that is going on today and then give time for a political settlement,” Reuters quoted him as saying. “It’s going to be difficult, but we have hope.”
In a statement released by his office after the meeting, Mr. Annan said that he had left several proposals with Syrian officials. He said he asked Mr. Assad to acknowledge the new realities of his country, citing an African proverb: “You cannot turn the wind, so turn the sail.”
A diplomat close to the talks said, “The ball is in Assad’s court,” adding that Mr. Annan would also try to persuade the fractured Syrian opposition to form a more united front. Mr. Annan flew to Qatar on Sunday for talks with that country’s emir, a leading critic of the Syrian government who has called for arming the rebels.
For the moment, Mr. Assad has shown little interest in a political settlement, nor have many of his opponents. Mr. Assad told Mr. Annan on Saturday that no political deal was possible while “armed terrorists” were operating in the country. Many of his opponents have said that Mr. Assad must step down before any negotiations take place. The United Nations estimates that the widening war has killed at least 7,500 people.