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UN: Children in Conflict Victims, Not Perpetrators

A child soldier helps man a checkpoint on the outskirts of Bunia, Congo, April 2011 (file photo).

Millions of children around the world are disproportionately affected by ongoing wars, and are being forcefully recruited, killed, maimed and abused in those armed conflicts.

According to an annual report by the United Nations special representative for children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, children have become "primary targets" of armed groups and are increasingly used for intelligence-gathering and as human shields.

In the report, Children and Justice During and in the Aftermath of Armed Conflict, Coomaraswamy says children are unfairly arrested and detained for taking part in hostile activities into which they are forced.

She said children in these cases should be treated as victims, not as perpetrators.

Although 10,000 children have been released thanks to efforts on the ground, thousands more are still being abused, exploited and beaten into submission by armed groups, she said.

Coomaraswamy has called on governments to strengthen measures against the use of children in conflict and work to rehabilitate and reintegrate former child soldiers.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.