UN Special Representative Zerrougui engages parties in the Syrian conflict to better protect children
18 Dec 2012
Beirut, 18 December 2012 – The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Ms. Leila Zerrougui yesterday arrived here from a four-day visit to the Syrian Arab Republic where she engaged State authorities and the armed opposition for better protection of children.
“The events in the Al Yarmouk camp in Damascus on Sunday, resulting in the killing and injuring of Palestinian children, is just one example of the horrors that children continue to face each and every day in Syria,” the Special Representative said.
During her discussions with Government authorities, Zerrougui raised strong concerns regarding the ongoing fighting and its impact on children, specifically the use of heavy weapons and bombardment of populated areas. She also advocated for the proactive protection of schools and the prevention of their military use by Syrian Government forces and the opposition in the ongoing fighting.
“As a first effort to address child rights violations, I welcome the commitment made by the Syrian authorities to allow the United Nations to begin independent verification of alleged violations against children in the ongoing conflict,” SRSG Zerrougui said. “This will allow for better monitoring and reporting of grave violations committed against children so that we can take action directly with perpetrators to stop these violations. This is what the Security Council mandated me and the United Nations to do on behalf of war-affected children.”
In April 2012, the Syrian Government forces were for the first time added to the Secretary-General’s “list of shame” for the killing and maiming of children and attacks on schools and hospitals. The United Nations has also received reports of Syrian armed opposition using children as spies, porters and for other purposes in their operations.
Although the current security situation did not allow the Special Representative to meet the armed opposition in person, she contacted two armed opposition commanders to raise allegations of association of children with the opposition, and to deplore terror tactics by certain units which have taken the lives of innocent civilians, including children, over the past months. “Our eyes will stay on the opposition to see whether they are serious in the commitment made to protect girls and boys,” Ms. Zerrougui stressed.
During her visit, the Special Representative also met with internally displaced and refugee children in Damascus, the Al-Yarmouk camp and Homs who are in desperate need of protection as well as food, medicine and shelter in the winter months to come.
“The situation I witnessed in Syria is dire for children. The immediate end to the violence and an inclusive peace are the only viable option, if we are to preserve the future generation of Syria’s children.”