DAMASCUS, Syria, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- A senior U.N. official on called on both sides of the conflict in Syria to put an end to all forms of sexual violence.
In a statement, the special representative of the secretary-general on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, also called for the release of all abducted women and children, the United Nations said in a release Friday.
"The people of Syria continue to suffer greatly. Civilians already caught in a vicious cycle of violence are also the target of sexual violence by all parties to the conflict," Bangura said.
Bangura cited a case that happened Thursday in which a group of armed men allegedly highjacked a bus in north-west Syria and abducted at least 40 civilians, mostly women and children.
"I am deeply concerned about the well-being of these women and children and would like to remind the armed group responsible for this abduction that acts of sexual violence will not be tolerated," she said. "The armed group must release these women and children without further delay, and must issue clear orders against sexual violence through its respective chain of command, and hold perpetrators of sexual violence to account."
Bangura called on both sides of the conflict -- the rebels and the government -- to immediately put an end to all forms of violence, including sexual violence, and allow access to necessary medical and psychological treatment for survivors in Syria as well as in neighbouring countries.