CHILD SOLDIERS RATIFICATION AS RECOGNITION OF THE RIGHTS, WORTH, AND DIGNITY OF THE CHILD
FACTS AND FIGURES 300,000 children under the age of eighteen are currently participating in armed conflicts, 120,000 of whom are in Africa. Child soldiers are recruited in more than forty different countries on nearly every continent. 1.5 million children dead; 4 million disabled or maimed in conflicts. While most child soldiers are in their teens, some are as young as seven years old.
OBJECTIVES Introduce the notion of the “child soldier” by illustrating the reasons for their widespread recruitment Survey the treatment of those who are “recruited” Lay out the legal framework pertaining to children recruited into armed combat Advocate greater ratification of major legislation underscoring the rights of the child
REASONS FOR CHILD RECRUITMENT Cheap assistance—children do not demand salaries as adults do Children less likely to run away during long, drawn-out conflicts Regarded as more expendable than adult counterparts Easier to condition into fearless killing and unthinking obedience Proliferation of light weapons that are easily manipulated and assembled by children
TREATMENT OF CHILD SOLDIERS Brutal initiations involving cannibalism Used as human shields Girls raped, physically abused, made sex slaves Abducted, marched to physical exhaustion, tortured, beaten, and abused, then forced to do the same to family and members of community Held in virtual slavery in clandestine camps, serving as guards, concubines, and soldiers
UN CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities. States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen years into their armed forces. States Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for rules of international humanitarian law applicable to them in armed conflicts which are relevant to the child.
OPTIONAL PROTOCOL ON THE INVOLVEMENT OF CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities. States Parties shall ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 18 years are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces. States Parties shall raise in years the minimum age for the voluntary recruitment of persons into their national armed forces.
RATIFICATION OF THE UN CONVENTION AND THE OPTIONAL PROTOCOL Ratified by 191 countries Only two countries have not ratified: the United States, which has signaled its intention to ratify by formally signing the Convention, and Somalia. The Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict will enter into force on 12 February. To date, 93 countries have signed and 13 have ratified this Protocol.
RATIFICATION—A JOINT U.S.- SOMALIA VENTURE The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. Somalia and the United States are obliged to ratify the Convention. Pressure must be placed on both countries to facilitate ratification through cooperation among human rights organizations, peace and conflict research institutes, academicians, governments, and INDIVIDUALS. The world must embrace the Optional Protocol.