Child Soldiers

July 2008 • Volume 2, Issue 7
Are more aggressive efforts needed to protect children?
By John Felton

Introduction

Preteen soldiers in the Karen rebel army fighting Myanmar's military government are among the estimated 250,000 children under age 18 in national and guerrilla armies worldwide.   (Reuters/Jason Reed)
Preteen soldiers in the Karen rebel army fighting Myanmar's military government are among the estimated 250,000 children under age 18 in national and guerrilla armies worldwide. (Reuters/Jason Reed)

Since the mid-1990s, the world has watched in horror as hundreds of thousands of children and young teenagers have participated in nearly 50 wars, mostly in Africa and Asia. Children as young as 5 or 6 have served in combat, and thousands of abducted young girls were forced into sexual slavery. Some terrorist groups even strap explosive-rigged vests onto children and send them off as suicide bombers. Others have been recruited, sometimes forcibly, into the official armed forces or paramilitary units of several dozen countries. U.N. treaties prohibit the use of child soldiers, and the Security Council "names and shames" persistent violators. But only four former guerrilla commanders have been convicted by international tribunals, and some human-rights advocates urge more aggressive prosecution of perpetrators. However, some peace negotiators say threats of prosecution can obstruct cease-fire negotiations and prolong the fighting. In the U.S., where children under 18 serve in the military in non-combat roles, Congress is considering laws to combat the use of child soldiers overseas.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Ethics in War
Jul. 13, 2012  Privatizing the Military
Aug. 06, 2010  Drone Warfare Updated
May 2010  Confronting Rape as a War Crime
Jan. 2010  Truth Commissions
Feb. 27, 2009  Closing Guantánamo Updated
Jul. 2008  Child Soldiers
Sep. 2007  Torture Debate
Aug. 25, 2006  Treatment of Detainees
Apr. 18, 2003  Torture
Dec. 13, 2002  Ethics of War
Sep. 13, 2002  New Defense Priorities
Jul. 07, 1995  War Crimes
Apr. 26, 1972  Status of War Prisoners
Oct. 07, 1970  Military Justice
Jul. 12, 1967  Treatment of War Prisoners
Dec. 03, 1952  War Prisoner Repatriation
Sep. 07, 1948  War Trials and Future Peace
Jul. 07, 1945  Enemy Property
Nov. 20, 1943  Courts-Martial and Military Law
Mar. 15, 1943  War Guilt Trials
Mar. 30, 1942  War Atrocities
Feb. 02, 1942  Prisoners of War
Aug. 11, 1938  Aerial Bombardment of Civilian Populations
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Conflicts in Africa
Conflicts in Asia
Global Issues