Children gravely abused in Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria and CAR

NEW YORK (CIHAN)- The rights of children are being violated in conflict situations with total impunity, a United Nations official said, as she presented a report on grave abuses committed against children in places such as Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict said the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict shows that children were recruited and used, killed and maimed, victims of sexual violence and other grave violations in 23 country situations last year.

It has documented the cases of children recruited and used by 7 national armies and 50 armed groups fighting wars in the CAR, South Sudan, Syria, and in 11 other countries, according to a news release on the report.

In South Sudan, the conflict that erupted six months ago erased most of the progress achieved to protect children since the country’s independence.

Zerrougui recalled that the government of South Sudan had signed an action plan to end the recruitment and use of children by the South Sudanese army, in 2012, but said that “the gains, unfortunately, made by the government to address grave violations against children have been reversed since the last crisis started.”

During her recent visit to the country, the Government recommitted to the action plan. The leader of the opposition, Riek Machar, also recommitted in writing to end violations against children in the opposition forces.

The new crisis in Iraq is another concern, with the recent aances by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISISISIL) having created a “volatile and dangerous situation for children.”

The Special Representative’s office is receiving disturbing reports of recruitment and other grave violations against children, including “killing and maiming and also attacks on schools and hospitals” that require immediate action.

A new party appearing on the Secretary-General’s list of perpetrators is the extremist group Boko Haram, responsible in Nigeria for “increased attacks on schools, killing, maiming dozens of children as well as other grave violations as you all know this continues unfortunately in 2014.”

Zerrougui also referred to the recent killing of three Israeli youths in Palestine. She said “this is a crime and it is unacceptable” and also expressed concern that “at least one child has died as a result of the surge operation and subsequent exchange.”

The report also notes that the recruitment of children in the CAR was systematic and child rights violations were committed by all parties to the conflict in total impunity.

The report also points out that attacks against schools and hospitals are on the rise, including in Afghanistan, CAR, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Nigeria and Syria.