In May, the Working Group received the Secretary-General’s (SG) third report on children and armed conflict (CAAC) in Syria (S/2021/398), covering the period between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2020. During the reporting period, the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) verified 4,724 grave violations affecting at least 4,474 children. Recruitment and use of children was widespread and systematic, and 98 percent of affected children were used in combat roles. Children continued to be detained for actual or alleged association with armed forces or groups, often in overcrowded conditions, with limited or no access to medical services, unable to contact relatives, and deprived of due process. Of the 65,400 individuals still held at Al-Hol and Al-Roj, 94 percent are women and children. During the reporting period, 1,557 children (847 boys, 356 girls, 354 sex unconfirmed) were killed and 1,160 maimed (754 boys, 211 girls, 195 sex unconfirmed), with airstrikes accounting for 36 percent of the child casualties. Explosive remnants of war and indiscriminate ground shelling of civilian-populated areas were also leading causes of child casualties. The CTFMR verified 371 attacks on schools, medical facilities, and protected persons, 311 of which were attributed to Syrian Government and pro-Government forces. Of the total incidents, nearly 60 percent involved airstrikes. The CTFMR also verified 137 incidents of denial of humanitarian access and an unprecedented trend of attacks on water facilities, impacting water access for over 700,000 people. All but one of the 46 attacks on water facilities were attributed to Syrian Government and pro-Government forces. The Working Group should:

  • Strongly condemning the scale, severity, and recurrence of grave violations against children in Syria, demand that all parties uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law  (IHL) and human rights law (IHRL), and to take concrete measures to prevent, or in any event minimize, child casualties, and call for immediate and concrete steps to hold all perpetrators accountable;
  • Call on all parties to immediately end all recruitment and use of children, release all children from their ranks; urge all listed parties, including Syrian Government forces, to develop and sign action plans to end and prevent violations against children, and call on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to promptly and fully implement their action plan;
  • Remind all parties that children associated with armed groups should be treated primarily as victims, including those children actually or allegedly associated with groups designated as terrorist and those children who may have committed crimes; their reintegration should be prioritized in line with international juvenile justice standards; and detention of children should only be used as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;
  • Urge Member States to facilitate the return of their nationals, including children of their nationals, held for their or their family members’ actual or alleged association with ISIL, following individual, rights-based needs assessments, provide reintegration support in line with international law and standards, prioritizing the child’s best interests, and prevent children from becoming stateless;
  • Call on all parties to take immediate and specific measures to end and prevent rape and other forms of sexual violence against children and to ensure the provision of comprehensive, gender-sensitive, and age-appropriate response and protection for child survivors;
  • Call on all parties to immediately cease attacks or threats against schools, medical facilities and transport, their personnel, and other civilian objects; and urge the Government of Syria to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and to ensure attacks on these institutions and their personnel are investigated and those responsible duly prosecuted;
  • Urge the Security Council to urgently renew cross-border access through Bab al-Hawa for at least 12 months to ensure the UN cross-border response into Northwest Syria continues, and urgently address ongoing challenges to the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Northeast and Northwest Syria following removal of Al Yarubiyah and Bab al-Salam crossing points in 2020.

This information is based on Watchlist’s Children and Armed Conflict Monthly Update – June 2021.

UN Action

Year listed: 2012
Action Plans signedSyrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – recruitment and use of children (June 2019)
Secretary-General’s reports on CAAC in Syria: 2018; 2014
Security Council Working Group conclusions on Syria: 20192014

Perpetrators listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual reports on children and armed conflict

2001 2002 2003 2005 2006 2007 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
 Government forces, including the National Defence Forces and pro-government militias* a,b,d a,b,c,d b,d,c b,c,d b,c,d a,b,c,d
Free Syrian Army (FSA) – affiliated groups* a a a a a
Ahrar al-Sham a,b a,b a,b a,b
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) a,b a,b,c,d a,b,c,d a,b,c,d,e
Nursah Front (also known as Jabhat Fath al-Sham) a,b a,b a,b a,b
People’s Protection Units (YPG) a a a a
Army of Islam a

a: Parties that recruit and use children
b: Parties that kill and maim children
c: Parties that commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children

d: Parties that engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals
e: Parties that engage in abduction of children
f: Parties that deny humanitarian access to children

~ This party has concluded an action plan with the United Nations in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005).
* This party has been in the annexes for at least five years and is therefore considered a persistent perpetrator.