Legal Committee member Marwan Hijo Rifai said that since 2014 the Assad regime has resorted to recruiting children under the age of 15 due to the severe shortages of manpower from which it suffers. Though Syria signed the Child Protection Document in 2003, prohibiting engaging children under 18 fighting or the military, the Assad regime has been using minors as young as 15 in the ongoing war.
Rifai pointed out that the regime’s recruitment of children was initiated through the so-called Revolutionary Youth and the Vanguard Camps, which organized child soldiers into Al-Baath Battalions in last April. As many as 425 children were trained by these two regime organizations. As the conflict is becoming increasingly sectarian, new militias emerged such as the Al-Rida and Al-Quds militias, which are linked directly to Qasim Soleimani. These militias fought in Aleppo, more precisely in Al-Nairab area.
“Moreover, it is widely reported that the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Kurdish PYD party, is recruiting child soldiers though it has recently agreed to demobilize all child soldiers after warnings sent by the international organizations.”
Rifai said that the Syrian Coalition circulated the Geneva Convention to the FSA elements to ensure the neutralization of children in the armed conflict as the deployment of children under 18 in combat operations is a war crime punishable under international law.
He noted that the Syrian Coalition has documented many violations committed by the regime and terrorist organizations and the files were submitted to the International Criminal Court. However, Russia and China blocked the referral of these violations to the ICC four times, the last of which was in 2014. (Source: Syrian Coalition)