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Conference on child soldiers
by Amin George Forji
2007-02-09 16:26:59
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France, in collaboration with UNICEF, is organising an international conference to find modalities of abolishing the use of child soldiers in armed conflicts. Some 300 delegates for the two day conference are from 50 affected countries in different continents, donor countries, humanitarian organisations and NGOs.

The conference opened on Monday 5th Feb and has the theme, "Free children from war". One important point on the agenda is to devise a common stance to free children that are currently held captives, and used by militias as soldiers, and reintegrate them into normal life. The timing of the conference is expected to raise global awareness on the issue, ahead of Red Hand Day on February 12th, a day set aside to support children who suffer from this severe form of child abuse.

Participants are also expected to conclude the conference by drawing up a charter, to be known as the "The Paris Principles" with the primary aim to discourage the recruitment of children as soldiers, and further, to determine the framework of action against potential would-be child soldier perpetrators.

Speaking on Europe-1 radio prior to the conference, Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director, said, “We have a shared commitment to help children caught in the wars of adults and to protect, release and reintegrate child soldiers...we have made strides in bringing children from battlefields back to their communities and classrooms, but much remains to be done. Some 250,000 children are sent by dictators on to battlefields to find out if there are mines or not, so that their armies, their militias can go past. It is frightening."

She further warned that the recruitment of child soldiers is taking place every day, violating children's rights and compromising their futures, yet very little is done about it. She went on to describe the appalling reality that is more than a war crime, “It is a time bomb which threatens the stability and the growth of Africa and beyond."

Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French Foreign Minister, lamented that the "situation really is a crime against humanity and it has to be stopped." Over 27,000 children are believed to have been used on the frontline during armed conflicts in 2006 alone in different parts of the world. UNICEF estimates that over 25,000 young boys and girls under the age of 16 are still currently actively involved in different armed conflicts across the globe.

It is worth noting that with the Rome Treaty creating the International Criminal Court (ICC) in September 2002, the use of child soldiers is henceforth prosecuted as an international war crime. In fact, the ICC recently announced that Thomas Lubanga, a captured Congo militiaman, accused of orchestrating different atrocities in D.R. Congo between 1998 and 2003, among them, the massive recruitment of child soldiers, would become the first person to face trial before the court on the issue.

Military factions in countries such as Burma, D.R. Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Colombia, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Palestine have traditionally recruited children into her regiments to serve functions such as active combatants, human shields, spotters, cooks, message carriers, sex slaves and more.

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Sand2007-02-09 09:35:00
I remember in World War II the Russians used to drive cattle over fields suspected of being mined. It is revealing that a portion of humanity regards children in the same category as cattle.

Eva2007-02-09 13:48:44
This is inhuman. I saw the film Blood Diamond last week, and it's horrific to know these things happen in real life.

Thanos2007-02-09 15:20:27
There are no words to describe it!!! I saw a documentary with one boy saying his story and it was ...wow!!! A nightmare alive!

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