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HRW: Syria armed groups using child soldiers

[JURIST] Teenagers as young as 15 have been recruited to join armed groups in Syria and have been fighting in the Syrian civil war, according to a report [text; press release] issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday. According to HRW, some of these teenagers even become suicide bombers. The report claims that Islamist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) [BBC backgrounder] have recruited children under the guise of giving them free education, which then turns out to be military training coupled with dangerous missions.The 31-page report stated, "[i]n some cases, anti-government armed groups recruited and enlisted children from refugee camps and communities in neighboring countries, as well as inside Syria itself. A 17-year-old boy said he returned to Syria to fight at age 16 after attending sermons and public speeches in Lebanon to go fight for jihad in Syria." The report recommended that all groups fighting in Syria turn away any individual who is not confirmed to be 18 or older. Currently the use of child soldiers is banned by the second additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 [text], to which Syria is not currently a party.

Since the start of the conflict, the Syrian government has also been accused of committing human rights violations against its own population. Recently, HRW has cited evidence [JURIST report] that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons inside its own territory on its own people. The UN Human rights chief has stated that abuses by the Syrian government far outweigh [JURIST report] those by the rebels.

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