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Report Summary July 2008
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Child Soldiers
Are more aggressive efforts needed to protect children?
By John Felton

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. . . .

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The Issues
  • Does "naming and shaming" help prevent the use of child soldiers?
  • Should the United States prosecute alleged child soldiers detained at Guantánamo Bay?
  • Should Congress pass legislation to combat the use of child soldiers overseas?

Should the U.S. prosecute alleged child soldiers at Guantánamo?

Pro Pro
David B. Rivkin, Jr.
Partner, Baker Hostetler LLP, Washington, D.C.; Former Justice Department official and Associate White House counsel during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Written for CQ Global Researcher, June 2008
Jo Becker
Advocacy director, Children's Rights Division, Human Rights Watch; Founding chairman, Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. Written for CQ Global Researcher, June 2008


Several United Nations treaties make it illegal under international law for governments or rebel groups to recruit and use children in warfare, including:

  • Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions (1977) — Establishes age 15 as the minimum for participation in armed combat by government forces or nongovernmental groups; applies both to international and domestic conflicts.

  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) — Prohibits the recruitment and use of children under 15 by armed groups; a compromise is reached after objection by the United States, Britain and the Netherlands to an 18-year-old standard. The United States and Somalia are the only countries that have not ratified it. Footnote 1

  • Rome Statute (1998) — Creates the International Criminal Court and defines as a war crime the recruitment or use in combat of children under 15.

  • Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999) — Adopted by member states of the International Labor Organization; defines a child as anyone under 18 and says child labor includes "forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict."

  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (2000) — Raises to 18 the minimum age for using children in conflicts, prohibites compulsory recruitment by governments or non-state groups of anyone under 18; allows governments to recruit 16- and 17-year-olds for military service if the recruitment is voluntary and approved by the parents or legal guardians. The United States ratified it in 2002. Footnote 2

Since 1999, the U.N. Security Council has adopted six resolutions pertaining to children in armed conflict:

  • Resolutions 1261 (1999) and 1314 (2000) — Calls on all parties to respect international law concerning the protection of children, including girls, in armed conflict.

  • Resolution 1379 (2001) — Asks the U.N. secretary-general to create a blacklist of those who recruit child soldiers.

  • Resolutions 1460 (2003) and 1539 (2004) — Calls for children to be included in programs designed to help former soldiers disarm, demobilize and reintegrate into society; suggests implementation of country-specific, targeted measures.

  • Resolution 1612 (2005) — Creates a mechanism for monitoring and disseminating information on six types of child-rights violations; creates a Security Council Working Group to recommend measures on a per-situation basis; urges those using children in conflict to establish action plans for their release and reintegration.

[1] Available at www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/6/crc/treaties/crc.htm.

[2] Available at www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/6/crc/treaties/opac.htm.

Document Citation
Felton, J. (2008, July 1). Child soldiers. CQ Global Researcher, 2, 183-211. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/
Document ID: cqrglobal2008070000
Document URL: http://library.cqpress.com/globalresearcher/cqrglobal2008070000

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