“Should child soldiers be prosecuted for their crimes?”

“In modern day warfare, children, both girls and boys, are increasingly becoming the subject of military recruitment, targeted attacks, and sexual violence. The diversity of armed groups and the widespread and easy availability of small arms and light weapons have led to the recruitment and use of hundreds of thousands of child soldiers around the world. Children as young as eight are drawn into violence for a variety of reasons. Some are used by their commanders as frontline combatants, while others carry out support functions. During armed conflicts, many children are forced to witness or to take part in horrifying acts of violence. They suffer from being orphaned, raped, maimed and manipulated to give expression to the hatred of adults.2 Many have lost their families, as well as education opportunities, a chance to enjoy their childhood, and to be part of a community.”

A new Working Paper (Number 3) has been released by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict entitled: Children and Justice During and in the Aftermath of Armed Conflict, which looks at the issues of whether children who are viewed as perpetrators but also victims, of crimes against humanity, should be prosecuted.

The Geneva Conventions obliges that all member states ‘act’ on severe breaches of human rights, but doesn’t specify the minimum age of criminal responsibility, which ranges from country to country. The International Criminal Court (ICC) Article 26 prevents the court from prosecuting anyone under the age of 18, rather leaving the decision to individual States. The working paper reports that: “If a child under the age of 15 is considered too young to fight, then he or she must also be considered too young to be held criminally responsible for serious violations of IHL while associated with armed forces or armed groups.”  Others believe that “this could be an incentive for their commanders to delegate to them the dirtiest orders, aiming at impunity.”

What’s your view?

See the discussion at: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=93900

View the full report: http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Full_Report_1957.pdf


Syria: “Here, torture is normal.” IRIN

http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=93897

Whilst the media bombards us with the lengthy criminal trial of Michael Jackson’s former medical doctor, the children of Syria are suffering in global silence.  A recent report by Amnesty International entitled: Syria: Deadly detention: Deaths in custody amid popular protest in Syria, documents the rising incidences of ‘rampant torture’ including young children, in Syria by supporters of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.  Global Campaigning organisation Avaaz also confirms reports of mass torture, where children have suffered torture, some dying in custody, some mutilated either before or after death.

See the Amnesty report: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE24/035/2011/en/874dfa1c-2041-4681-a610-dffe1aa1421c/mde240352011en.pdf

Check out Avaaz at http://www.avaaz.org/en/ and see how you can get involved in supporting freedom in Syria.

There is also one on IRIN which is like a diary/blog of a Somali refugee in “the world’s largest refugee complex, Dadaab, in eastern Kenya” – should I do this?

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