Children should not be used in adult wars



News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

AI-index       ACT 76/001/2003          11/02/2003

12 February Anniversary of the UN "Child Soldiers" Treaty

On the eve of the anniversary of the entry into force of an international
treaty banning child soldiers, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child
Soldiers warned that the problem of child soldiers, far from being solved,
is still prevalent.

"Child soldiers continue to be abused as foot soldiers, porters, look-outs
and sexual slaves - the problem is not decreasing but, with each new
conflict, children are at risk of being drawn into the fighting," said
Casey Kelso, Coordinator of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child
Soldiers.

The Coalition warned the international community against assuming that the
issue of child soldiers could be struck-off simply because their use was
now banned by international law

The issue of child soldiers has been addressed at the UN Security Council,
which has taken a landmark decision to name the names of those who are
recruiting child soldiers.

In December 2002, the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report
to the Security Council identified 23 parties to conflict in five country
situations that involved child soldiers: Afghanistan, Burundi, the
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia and Somalia. Not only armed
opposition groups were using children: the UN pointed the finger at the
government forces of Burundi, DRC and Liberia as abusing children by using
them as soldiers.

At the end of January 2003, the UN Security Council adopted a new
resolution on children and armed conflict calling on the Secretary-General
to include information about protecting children in all his
country-specific reports.

"It is essential for the Security Council to make a commitment to
accountability to take appropriate action against those using or
recruiting child soldiers," said Mr Kelso.

Although 111 countries have now signed the "child soldiers' treaty"
recognising that forcibly recruiting children into war is wrong, only 46
countries have actually made a binding legal commitment to enforce the
Optional Protocol.

"This first anniversary of the Optional Protocol should not be a
celebration but a time to call upon other countries to join the
international community in condemning this appalling practice," said Mr
Kelso.

Country of concern where child soldiers are being used:

* In Myanmar, for example, an estimated 70,000 children are in uniform in
the state army - many are forcibly conscripted by kidnapping or threats of
prison at ages as young as 11.

* In Colombia, the Coalition's research estimated that up to 14,000 child
soldiers -- boys and girls as young as 10 years old -- are recruited into
armed groups paramilitaries and militias.

* In Nepal, some sources indicate that as many as 30 percent of the rights
in the Communist Party of Nepal fighting forces are children, and the
number is growing each month.

Background

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers was formed in 1998. Its
founding members include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Jesuit
Refugee Service, Quaker United Nations Office - Geneva, Ra"dda Barnen for
the International Save the Children Alliance, Terre des Hommes. Later,
Defence for Children International, World Vision International and several
regional NGOs from Latin America, Africa and Asia also joined in the
Coalition's activities.

Many Coalition members or partner organisations around the world, from
Pakistan to the United States of America, will be celebrating the 12
February anniversary with special events.

Media interviews

For more information about local contacts in your country, or to arrange
an interview with the International Secretariat of the Coalition, please
contact Casey Kelso, the Coordinator of the Coalition to Stop the Use of
Child Soldiers based in London, at: +44-207-713-2761 or Judith Arenas of
Amnesty International at +44-207-413-5810.


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