Policies

Optional Protocol

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict is an optional protocol to the Convention that raises the age of possible recruitment of persons into armed forces and their participation in hostilities. Part of the rationale for the Optional Protocol is that protecting children’s rights by limiting their involvement in armed conflict “will contribute effectively to the implementation of the principle that the best interests of the child are to be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children”. [a]

Afghanistan

Optional Protocol: acceded 24 September 2003

Other treaties ratified

CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child. Also, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child),

ICC (International Criminal Court)

In 2006 the government launched a National Strategy for Children at Risk. Designed by the Ministry of Martyrs, Disabled and Social Affairs, with the support of UNICEF and other partners, it was intended to improve care for vulnerable children and their families.

National recruitment legislation and practice

Afghanistan’s declaration on acceding to the Optional Protocol stated that “according to the Decree No. 20 dated 25 May 2003 on the voluntary enrollment to the Afghan National Army … the minimum age for recruitment of Afghan Citizen to an active military service is limited by the age of 22 to 28. All recruitment of personnel in the Afghan National Army is voluntary and is not forced or coerced”. A presidential decree (No. 97) issued in December 2003 amended the minimum age of recruitment into the ANA to 18. There was anecdotal evidence of the recruitment of under-18s by the ANA and unconfirmed reports of under-18s falsifying their identification records to join.[1]

Myanmar (Burma)

Optional Protocol: not signed

Other treaties ratified:

CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child. Also, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child)

Under the 1993 Child Law, a child was anyone under the age of 16 and a youth was anyone over 16 and below 18. The law defined penalties for offences including the abuse and torture of children, and stated that “employing or permitting a child to perform work which is hazardous to the life of the child or which may cause disease to the child or which is harmful to the child’s moral character” was punishable by imprisonment of up to six months or a fine, or both (Section 65).[1]

A 21 September 2007 letter to the Child Soldiers Coalition from the Permanent Mission of Myanmar in Geneva stated that the Myanmar Defence Services Act and the War Office Council Directive did not allow a person under 18 to be enlisted. The letter further stated that forced conscription or compulsory recruitment was prohibited, and that determining the minimum age requirement for compulsory recruitment was therefore unnecessary.[2] However, in practice the Tatmadaw forcibly recruited both adults and children through intimidation, coercion and violence.[3]

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Optional Protocol: ratified 11 November 2001

Other treaties ratified

CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child. Also, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child),

GC AP I and II (Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977),

ICC (International Criminal Court ), ILO 138 (C138 Minimum Age Convention, 1973),

ILO 182 (C182 Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999)

A comprehensive Child Protection Code was awaiting approval by parliament in October 2007. The code prohibited the forced recruitment of children or their use in armed conflict (Article 50a), as well as the enlistment or use of children in the national armed forces, the police and armed groups (Article 73). Prison terms of between ten and 20 years were specified for these offences (Article 193). The code criminalized rape, (Article 175) and sexual slavery (Article 189), with prison terms of 7–25 and 10–25 years respectively. A wide range of other acts of sexual violence and exploitation were criminalized by the code.16

http://www.childsoldiersglobalreport.org/content/congo-democratic-republic

National

National recruitment legislation and practice

The February 2006 constitution defined a child as any person below the age of 18. All forms of exploitation of children were punishable by the law (Article 41), and public authorities were under obligation to protect young people from threats to their health, education and development (Article 42). The organization of military or paramilitary formations, private militias or youth armies was prohibited (Article 190). [1]

A comprehensive Child Protection Code was awaiting approval by parliament in October 2007. The code prohibited the forced recruitment of children or their use in armed conflict (Article 50a), as well as the enlistment or use of children in the national armed forces, the police and armed groups (Article 73). Prison terms of between ten and 20 years were specified for these offences (Article 193). The code criminalized rape, (Article 175) and sexual slavery (Article 189), with prison terms of 7–25 and 10–25 years respectively. A wide range of other acts of sexual violence and exploitation were criminalized by the code. [2]

Regional

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child: The Charter is the only regional treaty, which addresses the issue of child soldiers. It was adopted by the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) and came into force in November 1999.[3]

It defines a child as anyone below 18 years of age without exception. It also states that: “States Parties to the present Charter shall take all necessary measures to ensure that no child shall take a direct part in hostilities and refrain in particular, from recruiting any child” (Article 22.2).

A national body, the Commission Nationale de Désarmement, Démobilisation et Réinsertion (CONADER), was established in December 2003 to oversee a DDR program for an estimated 150,000 adult fighters and 30,000 children. An operational framework for children’s DDR was adopted by CONADER in March 2004. By December 2006 CONADER stated that 30,000 children had been released from armed forces and groups.52 Four thousand children were released between October 2006 and August 2007, mainly from “mixed” brigades and armed groups.[4]

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), also known as the Lord’s Resistance Movement, is a militant group/cult operating in northern Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic.

Go back to Afghanistan, DRC, Myanmar


[2] RDC, Ministère de la Condition Féminine, Projet de Code de Protection de l’Enfant, version definitive à traiter au Conseil des Ministres, October 2007.

[4] Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UN Doc. S/2007/391, 28 June 2007.


[1] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by states parties under Article 44 of the Convention, Second periodic reports of states parties due in 1998, Myanmar, 11 June 2002, UN Doc. CRC/C/70/Add.21, 5 November 2003.

[2] Letter to the Child Soldiers Coalition from the Permanent Mission of the Union of Myanmar to the United Nations Office and Other International Organizations, Geneva, 21 September 2007.

[3] “Sold to be soldiers: the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Burma”, Human Rights Watch, Vol. 19, No. 15(C), October 2007.


[1] US Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2006.

[a] Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc-conflict.htm

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