GENEVA -- A U.N. probe has found that Syrian troops killed hundreds of children and committed other "crimes against humanity" since the government crackdown began in March.
A panel of independent experts says at least 256 children were killed by government forces as of early November, with some boys sexually tortured and a 2-year-old girl shot to death just to prevent her from growing up to be a demonstrator.
The panel said government forces were given "shoot to kill" orders to crush demonstrations. Some troops "shot indiscriminately at unarmed protesters," while snipers targeted others in the upper body or head.
The full list of alleged crimes committed by Syrian forces included "murder, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence," said panel chairman Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, a Brazilian professor. "We have a very solid body of evidence."
The panel collected numerous testimonies of prisoners claiming to have been beaten, tortured and sexually abused while being kept in detention. Former detainees reported receiving electroshocks and cigarette burns to the anus, among other abuses, while detained.
More than once, children were tortured to death.
From the report:
Two well-known cases are those of Thamir Al Sharee, aged 14, and Hamza Al Katheeb, aged 13, from the town of Sayda in the Dar’a governorate... A witness, himself a victim of torture, claimed to have seen Thamir Al Sharee on 3 May. The witness stated that “the boy was lying on the floor and was completely blue. He was bleeding profusely from his ear, eyes and nose. He was shouting and calling for his mother and father for help. He fainted after being hit with a rifle butt on the head.
The panel concludes that in some cases, security forces were ordered to shoot at protesters without warning. Troops deliberately targeted or were ordered to target unarmed protesters.
For example, on 29 April, thousands of people walked from nearby villages to the town of Dar’a to bring food, water and medicine to the local population. When they reached the Sayda residence complex, they were ambushed by security forces. More than 40 people were reportedly killed, including women and children.
Syrian officials have not commented directly on the report.
The report and the sanctions are the latest in a growing wave of international measures pressuring Damascus to end its crackdown.
Click here to read the U.N.'s full report.