February 12, 2002: CRINMAIL Digest 356 Special Edition on Optional Protocol on children and armed conflict - OPTIONAL PROTOCOL: High Commissioner for Human Rights Welcomes Entry into Force of Instrument against Use of Child Solders [news] - Red Hands to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers [news] - Towards a global ban on child soldiers [backgrounder] - HUMAN RIGHTS: News about children, and human rights [website] Your submissions are welcome if you are working in the area of child rights. To contribute, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that we are unable to respond to emails addressed to email@example.com --------------------------------------------------- - High Commissioner for Human Rights Welcomes Entry into Force of Instrument against Use of Child Solders [news] A treaty to ban the use of children as soldiers comes into force today, crowning ten years of international efforts to fight one of the major causes of human rights violations in the world. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict establishes that no person under the age of 18 shall be subject to compulsory recruitment into regular armed forces, and imposes an obligation on States to raise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment to at least 16 years. States Parties to the Protocol shall also ensure that members of their armed forces under 18 years of age do not take a direct part in hostilities. In addition, armed groups distinct from the armed forces of a State should not, under any circumstances, recruit or use in hostilities persons under 18. Marking the entry into force of the Optional Protocol, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson called on states not only to ratify the treaty, but to make binding declarations ending all forms of military recruitment and participation of children under 18 years of age. "We are urging all governments and armed groups to end the military recruitment of children under 18 and to release and rehabilitate those children already in service", she said. "There can no longer be any excuses for using children for war". The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers has played an important role in advocating for the adoption of an Optional Protocol. It estimates that half a million children are currently serving in government armed forces, paramilitaries and armed groups in 85 countries worldwide; more than 300,000 of these are actively participating in fighting in more than 35 countries. The Committee on the Rights of the Child, which ten years ago initiated work leading to the adoption of the Optional Protocol, will be in charge of monitoring progress achieved by States parties in implementing the new instrument. Each State party will, within two years of ratifying or acceding to the Protocol, submit a report to the Committee providing comprehensive information on the measures it has taken to implement it. Fourteen countries have now ratified the Optional Protocol: Andorra, Bangladesh, Canada, the Czech Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Holy See, Iceland, Kenya, Monaco, New Zealand, Panama, Romania, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Eighty-two countries have signed without proceeding to ratification. Source: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights The text of the Optional Protocol concerning Children and Armed Conflict can be read at: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/6/protocolchild.htm. Guidelines regarding initial reports of States Parties to the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the involvement of children in armed conflicts are available at: http://www.crin.org/resources/infoDetail.asp?ID=2267&flag=legal --------------------------------------------------- - Red Hands to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers [news] [Geneva, 11 February 2002] -- Thousands of red hands, the logo of the 'Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers', were planted symbolically in the grounds of the United Nations Palais des Nations in Geneva to draw attention to more than 300,000 child soldiers still fighting in today's armed conflicts and wars. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Mary Robinson, today joined children and campaigners around the world to mark the entry into force of a new UN treaty prohibiting the use of children under 18 in hostilities. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict has to date been signed by 94 states and ratified by 14. "Today we have reached another milestone in our fight to stop the exploitation of children by militaries," said Rory Mungoven, coordinator of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. "The growing number of governments and armed groups which have endorsed this international ban shows the tide of international opinion has turned against this appalling abuse of children." Napoleon Adok, a former child soldier who fought with government armed forces in Sudan from the age of 14, presented Mrs Robinson with letters and drawings from child soldiers and children affected by conflicts around the world. ?I am happy to see the world has finally taken action to end the horror facing children in conflict zones,? Napoleon said. ?All nations should ratify the Optional Protocol in honour of the millions of children who have lost their lives in war.? Similar campaign events to mark the occasion are being organised by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers in Bangladesh, Belgium, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, Tanzania, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uganda, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers was formed in May 1998 by leading non-governmental organisations to seek to end the military recruitment and participation in armed conflict of all children under 18 years of age. Its steering committee members currently include Amnesty International, Defence for Children International, Human Rights Watch, Jesuit Refugee Service, Quaker United Nations Office - Geneva, Rädda Barnen for the International Save the Children Alliance, Terre des Hommes and World Vision International and several regional NGOs from Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. For information and interviews, please contact: Rory Mungoven (+44 20 7226 0606 or mobile +44 780 877 1379); Judit Arenas (+44 20 7413 5810 or mobile +44 7932 035 980); Gerrit Beger (+44 7903 162610 or Geneva +41 (O)79 408 5468). Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers Unit 2 / O, Leroy House, 436 Essex Road, London N1 3QP, UK Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.child-soldiers.org --------------------------------------------------- Towards a global ban on child soldiers [backgrounder] On 25 May 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. The Optional Protocol came into force on 12 February 2002 and has to date been signed by 94 states and ratified by 14. The Convention on the Rights of the Child generally defines a child as any person under the age of 18 (Article 1). However, it sets the lower age of 15 in relation to the military recruitment and participation of children in armed conflict, while calling on states recruiting under-18s to give priority to the eldest (Article 38). The new Optional Protocol helps to correct this anomaly by raising from 15 to 18 years the minimum age for direct participation in hostilities, for compulsory recruitment and for any recruitment by non-governmental armed groups. It also calls on states to raise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment, and to implement strict safeguards for voluntary recruitment under-18. The Optional Protocol builds upon a number of key developments at the international level towards a global ban on child soldiers: * The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) defines ?conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities? as a war crime when committed in either an international or non-international armed conflict (Article 8). * International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 182 concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, which entered into force in November 2000, defines a ?child? as all persons under the age of 18 (Article 2) and includes ?...forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict? among the worst forms of child labour (Article 3); * the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which entered into force in November 1999, prohibits the recruitment or direct participation in hostilities or internal strife of anyone under the age of 18 (Article 22); * the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly, the UN Commission on Human Rights, the Organisation for African Unity, the Organisation of American States and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe have all condemned the use of children as soldiers * in October 1998, the UN Secretary-General established a new policy requiring civilian police and military observers on UN peacekeeping operations to be at least 25 years old, and troops in national contingents to be preferably 21 years but not less than 18. Source: Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers [www.child-soldiers.org] --------------------------------------------------- The CRINMAIL is an electronic mailing list of the Child Rights Information Network (CRIN). CRIN does not accredit, validate or substantiate any information posted by members to the CRINMAIL. The validity and accuracy of any information is the responsibility of the originator.
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