Mali security forces detain children

Mali security forces are detaining children they accuse of working with militant groups, a UN envoy said Monday.

Leila Zerrougui, UN special representative on children in conflict, called for international pressure on the Mali government to stop detentions and the use of under-age soldiers in the country's conflict.

"We continue to receive worrying information on children being detained by the Malian security forces for alleged association with armed groups," Zerrougui told a special UN Security Council meeting on children in conflict organized by Britain.

She said there were also "children hiding in their communities in fear of being arrested for association with armed groups."

The security forces have been widely accused of rights abuses in recent months. Mali has been in turmoil for more than a year with Islamists taking over the northern half of the country until January when French forces intervened. A UN peacekeeping force is scheduled to take over in July.

But the country has been added to a UN 'list of shame' on children in conflict for the first time.

"I call upon the Malian authorities to treat these children in line with international standards," the envoy said. Accusations that hospitals and schools have been attacked and children killed and raped during the conflict must also be investigated, Zerrougui said.

The Security Council issued a statement that condemned all violations against children but did not mention any specific country.