On the heels of the United Nations increasing its civilian death toll estimate during the year-long conflict in Syria to more than 9,000, many of the dead and injured include a group that hasn't picked up a gun nor a sign of protest: children. While both sides of the uprising have been accused of human rights abuses, according to Al Jazeera, the regime of Bashar Assad now stands accused of explicitly targeting children.
U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said in an interview that she believes Syrian forces have intentionally killed and tortured children. Pillay told the BBC:
They've gone for the children - for whatever purposes - in large numbers. Hundreds detained and tortured...it's just horrendous...children shot in the knees, held together with adults in really inhumane conditions, denied medical treatment for their injuries, either held as hostages or as sources of information.
The BBC report goes on to say the organization has received claims that the opposition Free Syrian Army was using children as fighters, according to Radhika Coomaraswamy, U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict.
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Syrian government forces continued their brutal siege Wednesday from the southern province of Deraa to Hama, 200 miles to the north, Reuters notes, despite President Bashar Assad having accepted to a U.N. peace plan on Tuesday. The agreement called for an immediate, two-hour pause in fighting every day to allow for humanitarian aid and plans for a total cease-fire, the Associated Press reports, though diplomats and opposition forces believe the Assad regime has only accepted the measures as a means to stall for time while renewing efforts to quash the opposition.
"We will judge Assad's sincerity and seriousness by what he does, not by what he says," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Though no direct effort has been approached yet, the U.N.'s Navi Pillay believes the U.N. Security Council has enough reliable information to refer the Assad regime to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for its human rights abuses.
"I feel that investigation and prosecution is a crucial element to deter and call a stop to these violations," Pillay told the BBC.