[JURIST] According to a report [statement] issued by the UN on Tuesday, children continued to be victims of violence and military recruitment in 23 conflict zones around the world in 2013. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui [official profile] condemned the abuses, particularly the recruitment of child soldiers by seven national armies and 50 armed groups fighting wars in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria and in 11 other countries. Zerrougui was especially critical of Syria [JURIST backgrounder], calling the country "one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child," as well as the emerging conflict in Iraq against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) [BBC backgrounder]. However, Zerrougui praised Chad's National Army for fulfilling all the requirements of its action plan to eliminate the use of child soldiers. "If we are serious about protecting children, we must demand accountability," Zerrougui said, denouncing the impunity with which these violations continue.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report [JURIST report] in June claiming that teenagers as young as 15 have been recruited by armed groups in Syria with some becoming suicide bombers. Earlier that month the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] confirmed war crimes charges against Congolese general Bosco Ntanga [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] including the recruitment of child soldiers. In January the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) [official website] reported that as many as 6,000 child soldiers may be involved [JURIST report] in the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. HRW reported in September 2012 that armed Islamist groups in northern Mali are employing child soldiers [JURIST report]. The Transitional Government of Somalia [CFR backgrounder] signed [JURIST report] a UN-backed action plan in July 2012 to end the recruitment of child soldiers.