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UN: Concern growing for children in Iraq, Syria

[JURIST] The United Nations top advocate for children affected by war on Monday expressed concern [statement] about the expansion of the Islamic State (IS) [BBC Backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in Syria and Iraq and the increase in violations against children there. During her address to the UN Human Rights Council's (UNHRC) [official website] special session on Iraq, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict [official website] Leila Zerrougui [official profile] reported that the UN has received 413 reports of violations against children since the beginning of the year and that interviews conducted by UN staff add to this number daily. She went on to say that IS in Iraq and Syria is using children as informers, checkpoint sentries and, in some cases, suicide bombers, and that the UN has also received currently unverified reports [New York Times report] that the group has abducted girls from minority communities and forced them into marriage. Zerrougui called on the Iraqi government to ensure that instructions to prevent the recruitment of children by government-backed militias are strictly enforced, as children continue to be recruited by both IS and militias supported by the government.

This is not the first time the UN has addressed the issue in recent months. A report [statement] released by the UN in July stated [JURIST report] that children continued to be victims of violence and military recruitment in 23 conflict zones around the world in 2013, with Zerrougui calling Syria "one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child." In June Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report [JURIST report] claiming that teenagers as young as 15 have been recruited by armed groups in Syria with some becoming suicide bombers. Earlier that month the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] confirmed war crimes charges against Congolese general Bosco Ntanga [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] including the recruitment of child soldiers. In January the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) [official website] reported that as many as 6,000 child soldiers may be involved [JURIST report] in the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. HRW reported in September 2012 that armed Islamist groups in northern Mali are employing child soldiers [JURIST report]. The Transitional Government of Somalia [CFR backgrounder] signed [JURIST report] a UN-backed action plan in July 2012 to end the recruitment of child soldiers.

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