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Military use of children

Military use of children

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The military use of children takes three distinct forms: children can take direct part in hostilities (child soldiers), or they can be used in support roles such as porters, spies, messengers, look outs, and sexual slaves
Sexual slavery
Sexual slavery is when unwilling people are coerced into slavery for sexual exploitation. The incidence of sexual slavery by country has been studied and tabulated by UNESCO, with the cooperation of various international agencies...

; or they can be used for political advantage either as human shield
Human shield
Human shield is a military and political term describing the deliberate placement of civilians in or around combat targets to deter an enemy from attacking those targets. It may also refer to the use of civilians to literally shield combatants during attacks, by forcing the civilians to march in...

s or in propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

.

Throughout history and in many cultures, children have been extensively involved in military campaigns even when such practices were supposedly against cultural morals. Since the 1970s, a number of international conventions have come into effect that try to limit the participation of children in armed conflicts, nevertheless the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers is a UK-based non-governmental organization that was formed to prevent the recruitment and exploitation of children in warfare and to ensure their reintegration into larger society by means of research, advocacy, and capacity building...

 reports that the use of children in military forces, and the active participation of children in armed conflicts is widespread.

International human rights law


The United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention on the Rights of the Child
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a human rights treaty setting out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children...

, Article 38, (1989) proclaimed: "State parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 15 years do not take a direct part in hostilities." However, people who are over the age of 15 but still remain under the age of 18 are still voluntarily able to take part in combat as soldiers. The Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict
Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Annex I of a resolution on 25 May 2000.The protocol came into force on 12 February 2002....

 to the Convention that came into force in 2002 stipulates that its State Parties "shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons below the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities and that they are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces". The Optional Protocol further obligates states to "take all feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and use, including the adoption of legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalize such practices." (Art 4, Optional Protocol.) Likewise, under the Optional Protocol states are required to demobilize children within their jurisdiction who have been recruited or used in hostilities, and to provide assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration. (Art 6(3) Optional Protocol.)

Under Article 8(2)(a)(xxvi) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression .It came into being on 1 July 2002—the date its founding treaty, the Rome Statute of the...

 (ICC), adopted in July 1998 and entered into force 1 July 2002; "Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities" is a war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

.

United Nations


The United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

 convenes regularly to debate, receive reports, and pass resolutions
United Nations Security Council Resolution
A United Nations Security Council resolution is a UN resolution adopted by the fifteen members of the Security Council; the UN body charged with "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security"....

 under the heading "Children in armed conflict". The most recent meeting was on 17 July 2008. The first resolution on the issue, Resolution 1261
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1261
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1261, adopted unanimously on August 25, 1999, in the first resolution to address the topic, the Council condemned the targeting of children in armed conflict including the recruitment and use of child soldiers....

, was passed in 1999 (it did not contain references to any earlier resolutions).

In a resolution in 2005 the Security Council requested that the action plan for establishing a monitoring, reporting and compliance mechanism produced by the Secretary-General
Secretary-General
-International intergovernmental organizations:-International nongovernmental organizations:-Sports governing bodies:...

 be implemented without delay.

International humanitarian law


According to Article 77.2 of the Additional Protocol I
Protocol I
Protocol I is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. It reaffirms the international laws of the original Geneva Conventions of 1949, but adds clarifications and new provisions to accommodate developments in modern...

 to the Geneva Conventions
Geneva Conventions
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war...

 of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, adopted in 1977:
As the ICRC commentary on Protocol I makes clear, this is not a complete ban on the use of children in conflict. The ICRC had suggested that the Parties to the conflict should "take all necessary measures", which became in the final text, "take all feasible measures" which is not a total prohibition on their doing so because feasible should be understood as meaning "capable of being done, accomplished or carried out, possible or practicable". Refraining from recruiting children under fifteen does not exclude children who volunteer for armed service. During the negotiations over the clause "take a part in hostilities" the word "direct" was added to it, this opens up the possibility that child volunteers could be involved indirectly in hostilities, gathering and transmitting military information, helping in the transportation of arms and munitions, provision of supplies etc.

Article 4.3.c of Protocol II
Protocol II
Protocol II is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts. It defines certain international laws that strive to provide better protection for victims of internal armed conflicts that take place within the borders...

, additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, adopted in 1977, states "children who have not attained the age of fifteen years shall neither be recruited in the armed forces or groups nor allowed to take part in hostilities".

Under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which was adopted and signed in 2002, National armed forces can accept volunteers into their armed forces below the age of 18, but "States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities". Non-state actors and guerrilla forces are forbidden from recruiting anyone under the age of 18 for any purpose.

International labor law


Forced or compulsory recruitment of anyone under the age of 18 for use in armed conflict, is one of the predefined worst forms of child labour, deemed a form of slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

, in terms of the International Labour Organisation's Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999
Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999
The Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, known in short as the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, was adopted by the International Labour Organization in 1999 as ILO Convention No 182. It is one of 8 ILO fundamental...

, adopted in 1999.

In terms of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Recommendation
Worst Forms of Child Labour Recommendation
The Worst Forms of Child Labour Recommendation was adopted by the International Labour Organisation in 1999 as ILO Recommendation No 190. The provisions of this Recommendation supplement those of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention and should be applied in conjunction with them...

 ratifying countries should ensure that forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict is a criminal offence, and also provide for other criminal, civil or administrative remedies to ensure the effective enforcement of such national legislation III(12) to (14)).

War crimes


Opinion is currently divided over whether children should be prosecuted for committing war crimes.

International law does not prohibit the prosecution of children who commit war crimes, but the article 37 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child does limit the punishment that a child can receive including "Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age."

Many child soldiers fought in the Civil war
Sierra Leone Civil War
The Sierra Leone Civil War began on 23 March 1991 when the Revolutionary United Front , with support from the special forces of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia , intervened in Sierra Leone in an attempt to overthrow the Joseph Momoh government...

 in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone , officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and southwest. Sierra Leone covers a total area of and has an estimated population between 5.4 and 6.4...

. In its wake the UN sanctioned the Special Court for Sierra Leone
Special Court for Sierra Leone
The Special Court for Sierra Leone is an independent judicial body set up to "try those who bear greatest responsibility" for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sierra Leone after 30 November 1996 during the Sierra Leone Civil War...

 (SCSL) to try the participants for war crimes and other breaches of humanitarian law. The statute of the SCSL gave the court jurisdiction over persons aged 15 and older, however the Paris Principles
Paris Principles
The Paris Principles were defined at the first International Workshop on National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights held in Paris on 7-9 October 1991. They were adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Commission by Resolution 1992/54 of 1992, and by the UN General...

 state that children who participated in armed conflict:

and this was reflected in the wording of article 7 of the SCSL statute which did not rule out prosecution but emphasised rehabilitation and society's reintegration. David Crane the first Chief Prosecutor of the Sierra Leone tribunal, chose to interpret the statute so that the tribunal's policy was to prosecute those who recruited the children rather than the children themselves no matter how heinous the crimes they had committed.

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, prosecutors take a different view from David Crane and have repeatedly stated that they intend to try Omar Khadr
Omar Khadr
Omar Ahmed Khadr is a Canadian child soldier and one of the juveniles held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. He was convicted of five charges under the United States Military Commissions Act of 2009 including murder in violation of the law of war and providing material support for terrorism,...

, on several serious charges including murder, for offences they allege he committed in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 while fighting for the Taliban against United States forces while he was under sixteen years old. If found guilty under US law such a crime carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. On 25 October 2010, Khadr pleaded guilty to murder in violation of the laws of war, attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy, two counts of providing material support for terrorism and spying. This was agreed as part of a plea bargain, which would see Khadr deported to Canada after one year to serve a remaining seven year there. In a letter to the U.S. military commission at Guantanamo after the plea of guilty had been heard but before the announcement of sentence, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN secretary-general's special representative for children and armed conflict, wrote that Khadr represents the "classic child soldier narrative: recruited by unscrupulous groups to undertake actions at the bidding of adults to fight battles they barely understand", and suggested that Khadr to be released into a rehabilitation program. One year after his sentencing Khadr was still a US prisoner and was likely to remain so for another 18 months before being transferred to a Canadian prison.

Movement to stop military use of children


Red Hand Day
Red Hand Day
Red Hand Day, February 12 each year, is an annual commemoration day on which pleas are made to political leaders and events are staged around the world to draw attention to the fates of child soldiers, children who are forced to serve as soldiers in wars and armed conflicts...

 on 12 February is an annual commemoration day to draw public attention to the practice of using children as soldiers in wars and armed conflicts.

Recently, a strong international movement has emerged to put an end to the practice. See, for example, Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers is a UK-based non-governmental organization that was formed to prevent the recruitment and exploitation of children in warfare and to ensure their reintegration into larger society by means of research, advocacy, and capacity building...

.

Nations and groups involved in military use of children


P. W. Singer of the Brookings Institution
Brookings Institution
The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., in the United States. One of Washington's oldest think tanks, Brookings conducts research and education in the social sciences, primarily in economics, metropolitan policy, governance, foreign policy, and...

 estimated in January 2003 that child soldiers participate in about three quarters of all the ongoing conflicts in the world. According to the website of Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 as of July 2007:
Under the terms of Protocol I
Protocol I
Protocol I is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. It reaffirms the international laws of the original Geneva Conventions of 1949, but adds clarifications and new provisions to accommodate developments in modern...

 of the Geneva Conventions, children over the age of fifteen who have volunteered can be used as spotters, observers, and message-carriers (see above International humanitarian law). The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has stated that most children serving as soldiers are over fifteen, although many exist at far younger ages.

Africa


The Cape Town Principles and Best Practices, adopted by the NGO Working Group on the Convention on the Rights of Children and UNICEF at a symposium on the prevention of recruitment of children into the armed forces and on demobilization and social regeneration of child soldiers in Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 in April 1997, proposed that African Governments should adopt and ratify the Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict
Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Annex I of a resolution on 25 May 2000.The protocol came into force on 12 February 2002....

 raising the minimum age from 15 to 18, and that African Governments should ratify and implement other pertinent treaties and incorporate them into national law. The symposium define a child soldier as any person under age 18 who is "part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or group in any capacity, including but not limited to cooks, porters, messengers and those accompanying such groups, other than purely as family members. The definition includes girls recruited for sexual purposes and for forced marriage. It does not, therefore, only refer to a child who is carrying or has carried arms."

Up to half of the world's child soldiers are in Africa according to UNOCHA. In 2004 one estimate put the number of children involved in armed conflict including combat roles at 100,000. In the end titles of the film Blood Diamond
Blood Diamond (film)
Blood Diamond is a 2006 political thriller film co-produced and directed by Edward Zwick and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou...

, it is claimed that "there are still 200,000 child soldiers in Africa". Many of these children are "invisible children," orphaned by AIDS, violence and war. These children are as young as 7 years old and are forced into conflict due to poverty, sold by their parents, kidnapped, or tricked into joining.

Burundi
Burundi
Burundi , officially the Republic of Burundi , is a landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Its capital is Bujumbura...


In 2004 hundreds of child soldiers served in the Forces Nationales pour la Libération
Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People
The National Forces of Liberation , formerly Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People is a rebel group in Burundi which fought in the Burundi Civil War for the Hutu ethnic group...

(FNL), an armed rebel Hutu
Hutu
The Hutu , or Abahutu, are a Central African people, living mainly in Rwanda, Burundi, and eastern DR Congo.-Population statistics:The Hutu are the largest of the three peoples in Burundi and Rwanda; according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency, 84% of Rwandans and 85% of Burundians...

 group. Children between the ages of 10 and 16 were also conscripted by the Burundese military
Military of Burundi
The Military of Burundi consists of the Army and the Gendarmerie. The naval and air units are incorporated within the Army.Army equipment includes BTR-40, Panhard AML, Shorland armoured car, and Walid armoured vehicles, ZPUair defence guns, and Heckler & Koch G3 and FN MAG small arms.- Small Arms...

.

Central African Republic
Central African Republic
The Central African Republic , is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It borders Chad in the north, Sudan in the north east, South Sudan in the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo in the south, and Cameroon in the west. The CAR covers a land area of about ,...


Between 2001 and 2003 children serve in armed rebel groups, including the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity
Union of Democratic Forces for Unity
Union of Democratic Forces for Unity is a rebel group which fought against the government in the Central African Republic Civil War. The Central African Republic has accused the UFDR of being backed by the government of Sudan....

 (Union des Forces Démocratiques pour le Rassemblement, UFDR).

Chad
Chad
Chad , officially known as the Republic of Chad, is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, Cameroon and Nigeria to the southwest, and Niger to the west...


Child soldiers are fighting with the Chadian Military
Military of Chad
The Military of Chad consists of the Armed Forces , Republican Guard, Rapid Intervention Force, Police, and National and Nomadic Guard...

, integrated rebel forces - the United Front for Democratic Change
United Front for Democratic Change
The United Front for Democratic Change or Front uni pour le changement is a Chadian rebel alliance, made up of eight individual rebel groups, all with the goals of overthrowing the government of current Chadian President. It is now part of the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development. UFDC...

 (Front Uni pour le Changement, FUC), local self-defense forces known as Tora Boro militias, and two Sudanese rebel movements operating in Chad - the Justice and Equality Movement
Justice and Equality Movement
The Justice and Equality Movement is a rebel group involved in the Darfur conflict of Sudan, led by Khalil Ibrahim. Along with other rebel groups, such as the Sudan Liberation Movement , they are fighting against the Sudanese Government, including the government's proxy militia, the Janjaweed...

 (JEM) and the G-19 faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA).

Cote d'Ivoire
Côte d'Ivoire
The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire or Ivory Coast is a country in West Africa. It has an area of , and borders the countries Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana; its southern boundary is along the Gulf of Guinea. The country's population was 15,366,672 in 1998 and was estimated to be...


During the 2002 civil war, "children were recruited, often forcibly, by both sides."

Children serve in armed militia groups linked to the government, including the Alliance patriotique de l’ethnie Wé (APWé) and the Union patriotique de résistance du Grand Ouest (UPRGO). The ex-rebel groups now allied into the New Forces
Forces Nouvelles de Côte d'Ivoire
The Forces Nouvelles de Côte d'Ivoire is a political coalition that was formed in December 2002, in the wake of the first peace accords of the Ivorian Civil War.-Composition:FNCI includes these political parties:...

 (Forces Nouvelles de Côte d'Ivoire, FAFN) also had child soldiers.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Thousands of children serve in the military, as well as the various rebel militias. At the height of the Second Congo War
Second Congo War
The Second Congo War, also known as Coltan War and the Great War of Africa, began in August 1998 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo , and officially ended in July 2003 when the Transitional Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo took power; however, hostilities continue to this...

, the UN estimated that more than 30,000 children were fighting with various parties to the conflict.

Rwanda
Rwanda
Rwanda or , officially the Republic of Rwanda , is a country in central and eastern Africa with a population of approximately 11.4 million . Rwanda is located a few degrees south of the Equator, and is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo...


In 2002 Child soldiers were used by Rwandan government forces and paramilitaries, operating within the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone , officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and southwest. Sierra Leone covers a total area of and has an estimated population between 5.4 and 6.4...


In Armies of the Young: Child Soldiers in War and Terrorism anthropologist David M. Rosen
David M. Rosen
David M. Rosen is an American anthropologist. Rosen holds a J.D. from Pace University School of Law and a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Illinois. He is Professor of Anthropology, at Fairleigh Dickinson University...

 discusses the murders, rapes, tortures, and the thousands of amputations committed by Small Boys Unit of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) during Sierra Leone's civil war (1991-2001.) Another book describing the civil war is A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. It describes the civil war from the view of Ishmael when he was forced to be a soldier.

Somalia
Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...


A report published by Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers in 2004 estimated that since 1991 200,000 children carried arms or had been recruited in the country's militias.

Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...



"In March 2004, there were an estimated 17,000 children in government forces
Military of Sudan
The Sudanese Armed Forces numbers, according to 2007 IISS estimates, 104,800 members supported by 17,500 paramilitary personnel.It comprises Land Forces, a Navy, an Air Force, and the Popular Defence Force. It has also formed Joint Integrated Units with its rebel enemies the Sudan People's...

, allied militias and opposition armed groups in the north, east and south. Between 2,500 and 5,000 children served in the armed opposition group, the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army
Sudan People's Liberation Army
The Sudan People's Liberation Movement is a political party in South Sudan. It was initially founded as a rebel political movement with a military wing known as the Sudan People's Liberation Army estimated at 180,000 soldiers. The SPLM fought in the Second Sudanese Civil War against the Sudanese...

 (SPLA), in the south. Despite a widely publicized child demobilization program, in which it claimed to have demobilized over 16,000 children between 2001 and 2004, the SPLA continued to recruit and re-recruit child soldiers." In 2003 it was reported that armed groups were active in government armed forces, Janjaweed militias, and opposition groups. Former child soldiers were sentenced to death for crimes committed while they were soldiers.

Uganda
Uganda
Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...


Over the past twenty years, the rebel Lord's Resistance Army
Lord's Resistance Army
The Lord's Resistance Army insurgency is an ongoing guerrilla campaign waged since 1987 by the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group, operating mainly in northern Uganda, but also in South Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo...

 has abducted more than 30,000 boys and girls as soldiers. Attacks against Uganda's Acholi people have resulted in severe trauma to civilians from extreme violence and abduction. Girls are often forced to be sex slaves. The Uganda People's Defence Force
Uganda People's Defence Force
The Uganda Peoples Defence Force , previously the National Resistance Army, is the armed forces of Uganda. The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates the UPDF has a total strength of 40–45,000, and consists of land forces and an Air Wing.The IISS Military Balance 2007 says there...

 has recruited small numbers of children into its forces as young as 13, including Local Defense Units.

Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia and a tip of Namibia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three...


The ZANU-PF government of Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe
Robert Gabriel Mugabe is the President of Zimbabwe. As one of the leaders of the liberation movement against white-minority rule, he was elected into power in 1980...

 sponsors a "youth militia" -- the National Youth Service, members aged between 10-30 are known as the "Green Bombers".

Asia and the Middle East


In 2004, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers is a UK-based non-governmental organization that was formed to prevent the recruitment and exploitation of children in warfare and to ensure their reintegration into larger society by means of research, advocacy, and capacity building...

 (CSUCS) reported that in Asia thousands of children are involved in fighting forces in active conflict and ceasefire situations in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, Burma, Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, Laos
Laos
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

, Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

 and Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

, although government refusal of access to conflict zones has made it impossible to document the numbers involved. In 2004, Burma was unique in the region as the only country where government armed forces forcibly recruit and use children between the ages of 12 and 16.

Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...


The Australian Defence Force
Australian Defence Force
The Australian Defence Force is the military organisation responsible for the defence of Australia. It consists of the Royal Australian Navy , Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force and a number of 'tri-service' units...

 will allow personnel to be recruited from the age of sixteen and nine months, however they must be aged over seventeen before commencing their training and service. This includes almost all branches of the Army, Navy and Air Force. Parental consent is required, and soldiers under the age of 18 cannot be deployed overseas or used in direct combat unless in exceptional circumstances.

Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...


Militias recruited thousands of child soldiers during the Afghan civil war during three decades. Many would still be fighting now, for the Taliban. Some of those taken from Islamic religious schools, or madrassas, allegedly are used as suicide bombers
Suicide Bombers
Suicide Bombers is the name of a 2005 EP by Leæther Strip. For the Australian hardcore band see Suicide Bombers -Track listing:# Suicide Bombers# Suicide Bombers # The Shame Of A Nation # This Is Where I Wanna Be...

 and gunmen. A propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 video
Video
Video is the technology of electronically capturing, recording, processing, storing, transmitting, and reconstructing a sequence of still images representing scenes in motion.- History :...

 of boys marching in camouflage uniform and chanting slogans of martyrdom was issued in 2009 by the Afghan Taliban's leadership in Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, the Quetta Shura
Quetta Shura
The Quetta Shura is a militant organization composed of top leadership of the Afghan Taliban, that is believed to be based since about 2001 in the city of Quetta in the Balochistan province of Pakistan. The Shura was formed after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was toppled in late 2001 and the...

, including a eulogy
Eulogy
A eulogy is a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, especially one recently deceased or retired. Eulogies may be given as part of funeral services. However, some denominations either discourage or do not permit eulogies at services to maintain respect for traditions...

 to a 14-year-old Taliban fighter who killed an American soldier.

Bahrain
Bahrain
' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...


Cadet
Cadet
A cadet is a trainee to become an officer in the military, often a person who is a junior trainee. The term comes from the term "cadet" for younger sons of a noble family.- Military context :...

s, NCO
Non-commissioned officer
A non-commissioned officer , called a sub-officer in some countries, is a military officer who has not been given a commission...

 trainees and technical personnel can enlist in the Bahrain Defence Force from the age of 15.

Burma
State Peace and Development Council
State Peace and Development Council
The State Peace and Development Council was the official name of the military regime of Burma , which seized power in 1988. On 30 March 2011, Senior General Than Shwe signed a decree to officially dissolve the Council....

 has stated that controls the government has stated that all of its soldiers volunteered and that all of those accepted are 18 or over. According to Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

, as many as 70,000 boys serve in Burma's national army, the Tatmadaw, with children as young as 11 forcibly recruited off the streets. Desertion
Desertion
In military terminology, desertion is the abandonment of a "duty" or post without permission and is done with the intention of not returning...

, the group reported, leads to punishment by three to five years in prison or even execution ins some cases. The group has also stated that about 5,000-7,000 children serve with a range of different armed ethnic opposition groups, most notably in the United Wa State Army
United Wa State Army
The United Wa State Army is an ethnic minority army of an estimated 30,000 Wa soldiers of Myanmar's Special Region No. 2 led by Bao Youxiang . There is no recognised Wa State in Myanmar, which is divided into divisions, states, and special regions...

. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon is the eighth and current Secretary-General of the United Nations, after succeeding Kofi Annan in 2007. Before going on to be Secretary-General, Ban was a career diplomat in South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the United Nations. He entered diplomatic service the year he...

 released a report in June 2009 mentioning "grave violations" against children in the country by both the rebels and the government. The administration announced on August 4 that they would send a team into Burma to press for more action.

Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...


Iranian law prohibits the recruitment of those under 16, basing itself on the Koranic traditions about war. However, the state broke those rules by the middle of the Iran-Iraq War
Iran-Iraq War
The Iran–Iraq War was an armed conflict between the armed forces of Iraq and Iran, lasting from September 1980 to August 1988, making it the longest conventional war of the twentieth century...

. However, as nationalism and anger to the Iraqi invasion spread, some children (along with old men) volunteered for the Basij
Basij
The Basij is a paramilitary volunteer militia established in 1979 by order of the Islamic Revolution's leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The force consists of young Iranians who have volunteered, often in exchange for official benefits...

 militia, often from areas destroyed by the Iraqi invasion. All were volunteers, oftentimes more passionate about their cause than their adult counterparts, and were mostly over 13 years of age. In 1984, Iranian President Ali-Akbar Rafsanjani said, "all Iranians from 12 to 72 should volunteer for the Holy War." Some child soldiers even wore keys around their necks to signify their coming entrance into heaven
Jannah
Jannah , is the Islamic conception of paradise. The Arabic word Jannah is a shortened version meaning simply "Garden". According to Islamic eschatology, after death, one will reside in the grave until the appointed resurrection on . Muslims believe that the treatment of the individual in the life...

. Ettelaat, an Iranian daily, reported, "Before entering the minefields, the children wrap themselves in blankets and they roll on the ground, so that their body parts stay together after the explosion of the mines and one can carry them to the graves." However, most (but not all) of those stories were really myths, propaganda, or embellished stories, and the child soldiers simply fought alongside their adult counterparts, often in Basij RPG or mine clearing teams. A small number of schoolchildren currently serve in the ranks of the Basij
Basij
The Basij is a paramilitary volunteer militia established in 1979 by order of the Islamic Revolution's leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The force consists of young Iranians who have volunteered, often in exchange for official benefits...

, an Iranian paramilitary
Paramilitary
A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

 force, according to CSUCS, generally above the age of 16. They have reported that the state conscripts for the regular army at age 19- while accepting volunteers at age 16- and those at 17 can work for the police.

Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....


Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

's regime maintained 'boot camps
Recruit training
Recruit training, more commonly known as Basic Training and colloquially called Boot Camp, is the initial indoctrination and instruction given to new military personnel, enlisted and officer...

' of civilian youths between the ages of 12 and 17 that involved small arms
Small arms
Small arms is a term of art used by armed forces to denote infantry weapons an individual soldier may carry. The description is usually limited to revolvers, pistols, submachine guns, carbines, assault rifles, battle rifles, multiple barrel firearms, sniper rifles, squad automatic weapons, light...

 training and Ba'athist political indoctrination according to the CSUCS. Iraqi opposition sources and the U.S. State Department reported that children who refused faced punishment. As well, the state incorporated children as young as ten into the Futuwah and Ashbal Saddam youth movements and then subjected them to military training, sometimes for 14 hours a day. P. W. Singer has compared the groups to the Hitler Jugend. In the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, 12-year-old boys fought for the Iraqi side with Kalashnikovs. Children also participated in the Iran-Iraq War
Iran-Iraq War
The Iran–Iraq War was an armed conflict between the armed forces of Iraq and Iran, lasting from September 1980 to August 1988, making it the longest conventional war of the twentieth century...

.

American forces fought children at Nasariya, Karbala
Karbala
Karbala is a city in Iraq, located about southwest of Baghdad. Karbala is the capital of Karbala Governorate, and has an estimated population of 572,300 people ....

, and Kirkuk
Kirkuk
Kirkuk is a city in Iraq and the capital of Kirkuk Governorate.It is located in the Iraqi governorate of Kirkuk, north of the capital, Baghdad...

 in the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

. A January 2009 UN report on the post-war Iraqi occupation stated that the Iraqi insurgency
Iraqi insurgency
The Iraqi Resistance is composed of a diverse mix of militias, foreign fighters, all-Iraqi units or mixtures opposing the United States-led multinational force in Iraq and the post-2003 Iraqi government...

 has used children as combatants. The report noted, for example, a suicide bombing attack by a boy between 10 and 13 years old against Kirkuk
Kirkuk
Kirkuk is a city in Iraq and the capital of Kirkuk Governorate.It is located in the Iraqi governorate of Kirkuk, north of the capital, Baghdad...

's police commander. CNN.com called the findings "disturbing". Coalition forces have been forced to take child insurgents as captives, which has led to a moral dilemma. The U.S. has shipped many of them into Abu Ghraib prison
Abu Ghraib prison
The Baghdad Central Prison, formerly known as Abu Ghraib prison is in Abu Ghraib, an Iraqi city 32 km west of Baghdad. It was built by British contractors in the 1950s....

.

Kurdistan
The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) systemically recruits children as young as 7 according to the CSUCS. They have reported that the PKK even formed a battalion
Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

 specially for this purpose, called Tabura Zaroken Sehit Agit. They counted the number of child soldiers at 3,000 in 1998. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is a Kurdish political party in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan was founded on June 1, 1975, by coordinations between Jalal Talabani and Nawshirwan Mustafa...

 (PUK) also recruits children according to the CSUCS.

Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...


Many different sides in the Lebanese Civil War
Lebanese Civil War
The Lebanese Civil War was a multifaceted civil war in Lebanon. The war lasted from 1975 to 1990 and resulted in an estimated 150,000 to 230,000 civilian fatalities. Another one million people were wounded, and today approximately 350,000 people remain displaced. There was also a mass exodus of...

 used child soldiers. The practice essentially ended after the peace from 1990 onwards, but factions have made allegations against each other about it since then. A May 2008 CSUCS report stated that Hezbollah trains children for military services. In April 2009, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon is the eighth and current Secretary-General of the United Nations, after succeeding Kofi Annan in 2007. Before going on to be Secretary-General, Ban was a career diplomat in South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the United Nations. He entered diplomatic service the year he...

 accused several factions of the practice. However, a Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 representative told The Daily Star
Daily Star (Lebanon)
The Daily Star is a pan-Middle East English language newspaper edited in Beirut. It was founded in 1952 by Kamel Mrowa, the publisher of the Arabic daily Al-Hayat to serve the growing number of expatriates brought by the oil industry...

that they have not documented any systemic military use of children by anyone.

Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...


An estimated 6,000-9,000 children serve in the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) forces. Although a peace agreement is in place, the Maoists have not yet demobilized children from their ranks. Robert Koenig's
Robert Koenig (filmmaker)
Robert Koenig is an Emmy Award nominated American film director, producer, writer and editor...

 documentary, "Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army
Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army
Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army is a 2008 documentary film directed by American filmmaker Robert Koenig, and written by Robert Koenig and Brandon Kohrt. The documentary premiered in Hollywood, CA at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre in 2008 at the 5th Annual Artivist Film Festival, where...

" tells the story of Nepali boys and girls as they attempt to rebuild their lives after fighting in the Maoist revolution against the former government. The children describe their dramatic recruitment and participation in the Maoist People’s Liberation Army during the eleven-year civil war between the Maoist insurgents and the Hindu monarchy controlled government of Nepal.

The Philippines
Children are recruited by rebel forces, including the New People's Army
New People's Army
The New People's Army is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. It was formed on March 29, 1969. The Maoist NPA conducts its armed guerrilla struggle based on the strategical line of 'protracted people's war'.The NPA exacts so called "revolutionary taxes" from business owners...

, Abu Sayyaf Group, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
Moro Islamic Liberation Front
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is an Islamist group located in the southern Philippines. It is one of two Islamic militant groups, the other being the Abu Sayyaf, that are fighting against Government of the Philippines...

. An estimated 13 percent of the 10,000 soldiers in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are children. Child recruitment is also reported by some paramilitary forces linked to the government.
The New People's Army gave up the use of child soldiers, and instituted a minimum age of 16, acting as couriers, medical volunteers and members of education and propaganda units while 18 is the more preferred age to become members of the force.

Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...


A mandatory National Service
National service
National service is a common name for mandatory government service programmes . The term became common British usage during and for some years following the Second World War. Many young people spent one or more years in such programmes...

 (NS) requires all male Singaporean citizens and second-generation permanent residents who have reached the age of 18 to enrol in the military. They serve a two-year or one-year-ten-month period as Full Time National Servicemen (NSFs), either in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Singapore Police Force (SPF), or the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). Pre-enlistees are subjected to exit control measures policy of limiting the passport validity of boys aged 11 and above, up to their enlistment. To travel, the boys had to apply to extend for 9 months extensions of the validity of their passports. This policy is, however, done away with recently due to the limitation of the new biometric passport. Exit permits are still required for overseas trips which last longer than three months. The stated objective of such exit control measures is to deter NS-evasion, and to act as a "psychological reminder" of the NS obligations.

Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...


In Sri Lanka, thousands of children are believed to be in the ranks of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was a separatist militant organization formerly based in northern Sri Lanka. Founded in May 1976 by Vellupillai Prabhakaran, it waged a violent secessionist and nationalist campaign to create an independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka for Tamil...

 (LTTE), a rebel group banned as a terrorist organization by a number of countries. Since signing a ceasefire agreement in 2001, the latest available UNICEF figures show that the LTTE has abducted 5,666 children until July 2006, although the organization speculates that only about a third of such cases are reported to them. Sri Lankan soldiers nicknamed one unit the Baby Battalion, due to the number of children in it.http://www.lankaeverything.com/printnews.php?pid=20060918001845.php In response to widespread international condemnation of alleged children recruitment practices, the LTTE informed that they have made (taking effect in Oct. 2006) child recruitment illegal for its groups.

More recently, the para-military group known as the Karuna Group, which is apparently a splinter group from the LTTE, has been held responsible for the abduction of children according to UNICEF and Human Rights Watch.

Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The conflict is wide-ranging, and the term is also used in reference to the earlier phases of the same conflict, between Jewish and Zionist yishuv and the Arab population living in Palestine under Ottoman or...



Jihad Shomaly, in a report entitled Use of Children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, published in 2004 for the Defence for Children International/Palestine Section, concludes the report by stating that a handful of children perceive martyrdom a way to strike a blow against those they hold responsible for their hopeless situation, and that they have been recruited by Palestinian
Palestinian people
The Palestinian people, also referred to as Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs , are an Arabic-speaking people with origins in Palestine. Despite various wars and exoduses, roughly one third of the world's Palestinian population continues to reside in the area encompassing the West Bank, the Gaza...

 paramilitary
Paramilitary
A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

 groups to carry out armed attacks. However, Shomaly goes onto state that there is no systematic recruitment and that senior representatives of the groups and the Palestinian community are against the recruitment of children as a political strategy, although in Shomaly's opinion the political leadership of the Palestinians could do more to discourage the use of children by paramilitaries by requesting that the leadership of the paramilitaries sign a memorandum forbidding the training and recruitment of children. Shomaly also points out that the "State of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 too regularly and covertly flouts binding regulations prohibiting the recruitment of child soldiers. Using violence
Violence
Violence is the use of physical force to apply a state to others contrary to their wishes. violence, while often a stand-alone issue, is often the culmination of other kinds of conflict, e.g...

, intimidation
Intimidation
Intimidation is intentional behavior "which would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities" fear of injury or harm. It's not necessary to prove that the behavior was so violent as to cause terror or that the victim was actually frightened.Criminal threatening is the crime of intentionally or...

 or blackmail
Blackmail
In common usage, blackmail is a crime involving threats to reveal substantially true or false information about a person to the public, a family member, or associates unless a demand is met. It may be defined as coercion involving threats of physical harm, threat of criminal prosecution, or threats...

, it coerces Palestinian children into acting as informer
Informant
An informant is a person who provides privileged information about a person or organization to an agency. The term is usually used within the law enforcement world, where they are officially known as confidential or criminal informants , and can often refer pejoratively to the supply of information...

s, violating their rights and endangering their lives."

William O'Brien, a professor of Georgetown University
Georgetown University
Georgetown University is a private, Jesuit, research university whose main campus is in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Founded in 1789, it is the oldest Catholic university in the United States...

, wrote about active participation of Palestinian children in the First Intifada
First Intifada
The First Intifada was a Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories. The uprising began in the Jabalia refugee camp and quickly spread throughout Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem....

: "It appears that a substantial number, if not the majority, of troops of the intifada are young people, including elementary schoolchildren. They are engaged in throwing stones and Molotov cocktail
Molotov cocktail
The Molotov cocktail, also known as the petrol bomb, gasoline bomb, Molotov bomb, fire bottle, fire bomb, or simply Molotov, is a generic name used for a variety of improvised incendiary weapons...

s and other forms of violence." Arab journalist Huda Al-Hussein wrote in a London Arab newspaper on October 27, 2000: "While UN organizations save child-soldiers, especially in Africa, from the control of militia leaders who hurl them into the furnace of gang-fighting, some Palestinian leaders… consciously issue orders with the purpose of ending their childhood, even if it means their last breath."

In 2002, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers is a UK-based non-governmental organization that was formed to prevent the recruitment and exploitation of children in warfare and to ensure their reintegration into larger society by means of research, advocacy, and capacity building...

 said "while there are reports of children participating in hostilities, there is no evidence of systematic recruitment by armed groups [in the Occupied Territories]", with less than 1% of Palestinian adolescents having played an active role in clashes with Israeli troops. According to the CSUCS 2004 Global Report on the Use of Child Soldiers, there were at least nine documented suicide attacks involving Palestinian minors
Child suicide bombers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian militant groups have recruited minors to attack Israeli targets, both military and civilian, especially during the Second Intifada. In some cases these attacks have been suicidal in nature...

 between October 2000 and March 2004: but also stated, "There was no evidence of systematic recruitment of children by Palestinian armed groups. However, children are used as messengers and couriers, and in some cases as fighters and suicide bombers in attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians. All the main political groups involve children in this way, including Fatah
Fatah
Fataḥ is a major Palestinian political party and the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization , a multi-party confederation. In Palestinian politics it is on the left-wing of the spectrum; it is mainly nationalist, although not predominantly socialist. Its official goals are found...

, Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

, Islamic Jihad
Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine
The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine known in the West as simply Palestinian Islamic Jihad , is a small Palestinian militant organization. The group has been labelled as a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Australia and Israel...

, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist organisation founded in 1967. It has consistently been the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestine Liberation Organization , the largest being Fatah...

." In May 2008, a CSUCS report highlighted Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 and Islamic Jihad for having "used children in military attacks and training" in its Iranian section.

On May 23, 2005, Amnesty International
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

 reiterated its calls to Palestinian armed groups to put an immediate end to the use of children in armed activities: "Palestinian armed groups must not use children under any circumstances to carry out armed attacks or to transport weapons or other material."

In October 2010 an Israeli military tribunal convicted two Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 soldiers of using an 11-year-old Palestinian child as a human shield during Operation Cast Lead.

Mandatory Palestine
Historically, In Armies of the Young: Child Soldiers in War and Terrorism anthropologist David M. Rosen
David M. Rosen
David M. Rosen is an American anthropologist. Rosen holds a J.D. from Pace University School of Law and a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Illinois. He is Professor of Anthropology, at Fairleigh Dickinson University...

 discusses the creation of troops of boys aged twelve and up, modelled on the Hitler Youth
Hitler Youth
The Hitler Youth was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party. It existed from 1922 to 1945. The HJ was the second oldest paramilitary Nazi group, founded one year after its adult counterpart, the Sturmabteilung...

, and armed by the Arab Nazi party in Palestine and that carried out military attacks as part of the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine. Yassir Arafat grew up in this era and was both a child soldier and an organizer of other youth, emerging as a militant political leader by age ten. During the same period, very young children of Zionist settlers were allowed to take part in military activities in the same area, committing numerous hostilities both against Palestinians and against the British authorities. they train for a year

Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....


U.N. Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy
Radhika Coomaraswamy
Radhika Coomaraswamy is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed her to the position in April 2006...

 stated in January 2010 that "large numbers" of teenage boys are being recruited in tribal Yemeni fighting. NGO activist Abdul-Rahman al-Marwani has estimated that as many as 500-600 children are either killed or wounded through tribal combat every year in Yemen.

Europe


Chechnya
Chechnya
The Chechen Republic , commonly referred to as Chechnya , also spelled Chechnia or Chechenia, sometimes referred to as Ichkeria , is a federal subject of Russia . It is located in the southeastern part of Europe in the Northern Caucasus mountains. The capital of the republic is the city of Grozny...


According to the UN report, the Chechen separatist
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria is the unrecognized secessionist government of Chechnya. The republic was proclaimed in late 1991 by Dzokhar Dudayev, and fought two devastating wars between separatists and the Russian Federation which denounced secession...

 forces included a large number of children, some as young as 11 and both male and female, during the First Chechen War
First Chechen War
The First Chechen War, also known as the War in Chechnya, was a conflict between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, fought from December 1994 to August 1996...

: "Child soldiers in Chechnya were reportedly assigned the same tasks as adult combatants, and served on the front lines soon after joining the armed forces."http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/commission/country52/1996_13.htm In 2004 the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers reported that in Chechnya, under-18s are believed to be involved in a range of armed groups in the war against Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, although the numbers are impossible to establish given a virtual ban on media and human rights organizations from operating in the region. Some children allegedly took part in suicide bombings.

Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...


Italy allows boys and girls as young as 17 years of age, with parental consent and in possession of a high school diploma, to join a military academy
Military academy
A military academy or service academy is an educational institution which prepares candidates for service in the officer corps of the army, the navy, air force or coast guard, which normally provides education in a service environment, the exact definition depending on the country concerned.Three...

 where they receive both university-grade education and the necessary training to start a military career as commissioned officers; in no case, anyway, those cadets can be deployed in military operations.

Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....


Greece allows for the conscription of teenagers as young as 17 years of age during wartime.

United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...


The minimum age to join the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 is 16 and a half; parental permission is required for those under the age of 18. Approximately forty percent of Britain's military forces joined when they were 16 or 17 years of age. The UK adopted the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the involvement of children in armed conflict
Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Annex I of a resolution on 25 May 2000.The protocol came into force on 12 February 2002....

 on 24 June 2003. The Convention calls on ratifying governments to do everything feasible to ensure that members of their armed forces who are under 18 years of age do not take part in hostilities, however between June 2003 and July 2005, the British government inadvertently sent fifteen 17-year-old soldiers to Iraq, explaining the mistake as due to "the pressures on units prior to deployment".

North America


Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...


In Canada, people may join the reserve component of the Canadian Forces
Canadian Forces
The Canadian Forces , officially the Canadian Armed Forces , are the unified armed forces of Canada, as constituted by the National Defence Act, which states: "The Canadian Forces are the armed forces of Her Majesty raised by Canada and consist of one Service called the Canadian Armed Forces."...

 at age 16 with parental permission, and the regular component at 17 years of age. They may not volunteer for a tour of duty until reaching age 18.

United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...


In the United States 17-year-olds may join the armed forces
United States armed forces
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military...

, but may not be stationed outside the continental US or deployed in combat situations. The United States military is based on voluntary recruitment, though minors also must have parental permission to enlist (or permission from a legal guardian in the absence of parents). Males under eighteen years of age are not draft eligible, and females are not eligible for conscription at any age. The United States military requires all soldiers to possess a high school diploma or equivalent; this requirement may be waived for young soldiers for up to 180 days from the date of enlistment (with the agreement that the child obtains a high school diploma or equivalent within 180 days) and during wartime.

In 2004 the Director of Military Personnel Policy for the US Army acknowledged in a letter to Human Rights Watch that nearly 60 17-year old US soldiers had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004. The Department of Defense subsequently stated that “the situations were immediately rectified and action taken to prevent recurrence”. Human Rights Watch sent written requests in April and August 2007 for updated information regarding possible deployment of 17-year-old US troops to Iraq or Afghanistan, but as of October 2007 had not
received a response.
The United States has detained minors during their War on Terror. Omar Khadr
Omar Khadr
Omar Ahmed Khadr is a Canadian child soldier and one of the juveniles held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. He was convicted of five charges under the United States Military Commissions Act of 2009 including murder in violation of the law of war and providing material support for terrorism,...

, a 15 year old Canadian citizen, arrested in Afghanistan in 2002, and held at Guantanamo for the past five years was to have been one of the first detainees to be charged before a military commission. Human Rights Watch charges that, "the US government incarcerated him with adults, reportedly subjected him to abusive interrogations, failed to provide him any educational opportunities, and denied him any direct contact with his family." In 2004, three Afghan children were released from Guantanamo, believed to be between the ages of 13 and 15 at the time of their capture, to rehabilitation programs operated by UNICEF in Afghanistan.

Latin America


Bolivia
Bolivia
Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...


The government of Bolivia has acknowledged that children as young 14 may have been forcibly conscripted into the armed forces during recruitment sweeps. About 40% of the Bolivian army is believed to be under the age of 18, with half of those below the age of 16.

Colombia
Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...


In 2005, an estimated 11,000 children were involved with left-wing guerrillas or right-wing paramilitaries in Colombia
Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

 according to Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 and "[a]pproximately 80 percent of child combatants in Colombia belong to one of the two left-wing guerrilla groups, the FARC
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People's Army is a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization based in Colombia which is involved in the ongoing Colombian armed conflict, currently involved in drug dealing and crimes against the civilians..FARC-EP is a peasant army which...

 or ELN
National Liberation Army (Colombia)
National Liberation Army is a revolutionary, avowed Marxist guerrilla group that has been operating in several regions of Colombia since 1964....

. The remainder fights in paramilitary
Paramilitary
A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

 ranks." According to P. W. Singer, the FARC attack upon the Guatape
Guatape
Guatapé is a town and municipality in Antioquia Department, Colombia. Part of the subregion of Eastern Antioquia. Guatapé is located in the outskirts of Medellín, bordering a reservoir created by the Colombian government for a hydro-electric dam, built in the late 1960s. This quaint town is the...

 hydroelectric facility in 1998 had allegedly involved militants as young as 8 years old and a 2001 FARC training video depicted boys as young as 11 working with missiles. The group has also taken in children from Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

, Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

, and Ecuador
Ecuador
Ecuador , officially the Republic of Ecuador is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border...

.

In 1998, a Human Rights Watch press release indicated that 30 percent of some guerrilla units were made up of children and up to 85 percent of some of the militias, which are considered to serve as a "training ground for future guerrilla fighters." In the same press release, Human Rights Watch also estimated that some of the government-linked paramilitary units contained up to 50 percent children, including some as young as 8 years old.

In 2008, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers is a UK-based non-governmental organization that was formed to prevent the recruitment and exploitation of children in warfare and to ensure their reintegration into larger society by means of research, advocacy, and capacity building...

 reported that the Colombian government's security forces did not officially recruit children. The legal age for both compulsory and voluntary recruitment has been set at 18. However, students were allowed to enroll as cadets in military secondary schools and 16 or 17 year olds could enter air force or national army training programs, respectively. In addition, captured enemy child combatants were employed by the Colombian military for intelligence gathering purposes in potential violation of legal prohibitions.

Caribbean


Haiti
Haiti
Haiti , officially the Republic of Haiti , is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island...


In Haiti an unknown number of children participate in various loosely-organized armed groups that are engaged in political violence.

History


Throughout history and in many cultures, children have been extensively involved in military campaigns even when such practices were supposedly against cultural morals.

The earliest mentions of minors being involved in wars come from antiquity. It was customary for youths in the Mediterranean basin to serve as aides, charioteers and armor bearers to adult warriors. Examples of this practice can be found in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 (such as David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

's service to King Saul
Saul the King
According to the Bible, Saul was the first king of the united Kingdom of Israel. He was anointed by the prophet Samuel and reigned from Gibeah. He commited suicide to avoid arrest in the battle against the Philistines at Mount Gilboa, during which three of his sons were also killed...

), in Hittite
Hittites
The Hittites were a Bronze Age people of Anatolia.They established a kingdom centered at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia c. the 18th century BC. The Hittite empire reached its height c...

 and Egyptian
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 art, and in Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 (such as the story of Hercules
Hercules
Hercules is the Roman name for Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus , and the mortal Alcmene...

 and Hylas
Hylas
In Greek mythology, Hylas was the son of King Theiodamas of the Dryopians. Roman sources such as Ovid state that Hylas' father was Hercules and his mother was the nymph Melite, or that his mother was the wife of Theiodamas, whose adulterous affair with Heracles caused the war between him and her...

), philosophy and literature.

Also in a practice dating back to antiquity, children were routinely taken on campaign, together with the rest of a military man's family, as part of the baggage. This exposed them to harm from rearguard attacks, such as the one at the battle of Agincourt
Battle of Agincourt
The Battle of Agincourt was a major English victory against a numerically superior French army in the Hundred Years' War. The battle occurred on Friday, 25 October 1415 , near modern-day Azincourt, in northern France...

, where the retainers and children of the English army were massacred by the French.

The Romans
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 also made use of youths in war, though it was understood that it was unwise and cruel to use children in war, and Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 implies that regulations required youths to be at least sixteen years of age.

In medieval Europe, young boys from about twelve years of age were used as military aides ("squires"), though in theory their role in actual combat was limited. The so-called Children's Crusade
Children's Crusade
The Children's Crusade is the name given to a variety of fictional and factual events which happened in 1212 that combine some or all of these elements: visions by a French or German boy; an intention to peacefully convert Muslims in the Holy Land to Christianity; bands of children marching to...

 in 1212 recruited thousands of children as untrained soldiers under the assumption that divine power would enable them to conquer the enemy, although none of the children actually entered combat; according to the legend, they were instead sold into slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

. While most scholars no longer believe that the Children's Crusade consisted solely, or even mostly, of children, it nonetheless exemplifies an era in which the entire family took part in a war effort.

Young boys often took part in battles during early modern warfare
Gunpowder warfare
Early modern warfare is associated with the start of the widespread use of gunpowder and the development of suitable weapons to use the explosive, including artillery and handguns such as the arquebus and later the musket, and for this reason the era is also summarized as the age of gunpowder...

. When Napoleon was faced with invasion by a massive Allied force in 1814, he conscripted many teenagers for his armies. Orphans of the Imperial Guard fought in Holland with Marshal MacDonald and aged between 14 and 17. Many of the conscripts who reported to the ranks in 1814 were referred to as Marie Louises after the Empress Marie Louise of France (they were also known as "The Infants of the Emperor). These soldiers were in their mid-teens and performed heroic acts under the personal direction of Napoleon, but could not stem the tide of the Allied advance. One of their more visible roles was as the ubiquitous "drummer boy
Drummer boy (military)
Drummer boys were children recruited as military drummers for use on the battlefield.Armies regularly recruited young boys for this service, well into the nineteenth century...

" – the film Waterloo (based on the Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

) graphically depicts French drummer boys leading Napoleon's initial attack, only to be gunned down by Allied soldiers. During the age of sail
Age of Sail
The Age of Sail was the period in which international trade and naval warfare were dominated by sailing ships, lasting from the 16th to the mid 19th century...

, young boys formed part of the crew of British Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 ships and were responsible for many important tasks including bringing powder and shot from the ship's magazine to the gun crews. These children were called "powder monkeys". During the Siege of Mafeking
Siege of Mafeking
The Siege of Mafeking was the most famous British action in the Second Boer War. It took place at the town of Mafeking in South Africa over a period of 217 days, from October 1899 to May 1900, and turned Robert Baden-Powell, who went on to found the Scouting Movement, into a national hero...

 in the Second Boer War
Second Boer War
The Second Boer War was fought from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902 between the British Empire and the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State...

, Robert Baden-Powell recruited and trained 12-15 year old boys as scouts, thus freeing up the limited number of men for the actual fighting. The boys' success led indirectly to Baden-Powell founding the Boy Scouts
Scouting
Scouting, also known as the Scout Movement, is a worldwide youth movement with the stated aim of supporting young people in their physical, mental and spiritual development, that they may play constructive roles in society....

, a youth organization originally run along military lines. At the outbreak of the First World War, boys as young as 13 were caught up in the overwhelming tide of patriotism and in huge numbers cheerfully enlisted for active service others to avoid the harsh and dreary lives they had working in British industry. Many were to serve in the bloodiest battles of the war, such as ex-miner Dick Trafford who took part in the Battle of Loos, and Frank Lindley who, seeking to avenge his dead brother, went over the top on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Both were just sixteen. Typically many were able to pass themselves off as older men, such as George Thomas Paget, who at 17 joined a Bantam
Bantam (military)
A bantam, in British army usage, was a soldier of below the British Army's minimum regulation height of 5ft. 3ins.During the First World War, the British Army raised battalions in which the normal minimum height requirement for recruits was reduced from 5'3" to 5'...

 battalion in the Welsh Regiment. George died of wounds in captivity just five weeks after landing in France. George Mahers who served briefly in France when he was just thirteen years and nine months old. He was sent back to England along with five other under-age boys.
A young boy, Bugler John Cook, served in the U.S. Army at the age of 15 and received the Medal of Honor for his acts during the Civil War Battle of Antietam
Battle of Antietam
The Battle of Antietam , fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Antietam Creek, as part of the Maryland Campaign, was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with about 23,000...

, the bloodiest day in American history. Several other minors, including 11 year old Willie Johnston
Willie Johnston (Medal of Honor recipient)
William "Willie" Johnston , from St. Johnsbury, Vermont, was a drummer boy in Company D of the 3rd Vermont Infantry. His service during the Seven Days retreat in the Peninsula Campaign was exemplary. He was the only drummer in his division to come away with his instrument, by no means a trivial...

 have also received the Medal of Honor.

By a law signed by Nicholas I of Russia
Nicholas I of Russia
Nicholas I , was the Emperor of Russia from 1825 until 1855, known as one of the most reactionary of the Russian monarchs. On the eve of his death, the Russian Empire reached its historical zenith spanning over 20 million square kilometers...

 in 1827, a disproportionate number of Jewish boys, known as the cantonist
Cantonist
Cantonists were underage sons of Russian conscripts who from 1721 were educated in special "canton schools" for future military service .-Cantonist schools during the 18th and early 19th centuries:Cantonist...

s, were forced into military training establishments to serve in the army. The 25-year conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 term officially commenced at the age of 18, but boys as young as eight were routinely taken to fulfill the hard quota.

Many child soldiers fought in the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

:

World War II


In World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, children frequently fought in insurrections. During the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

, Jews of all ages, including teenagers such as Shalom Yoran
Shalom Yoran
Shalom Yoran is a survivor of the Holocaust and a former Jewish partisan. His World War II memoir, The Defiant. A True Story of Jewish Vengeance and Survival, was published in 2003....

, participated in the Jewish resistance simply in order to survive. Many members of the youth movement Hashomer Hatzair
Hashomer Hatzair
Hashomer Hatzair is a Socialist–Zionist youth movement founded in 1913 in Galicia, Austria-Hungary, and was also the name of the group's political party in the Yishuv in the pre-1948 British Mandate of Palestine...

fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the Jewish resistance that arose within the Warsaw Ghetto in German occupied Poland during World War II, and which opposed Nazi Germany's effort to transport the remaining ghetto population to Treblinka extermination camp....

 of 1943. The participation of children in this armed resistance is usually regarded as nothing short of heroic.

Many other anti-fascist resistance movement
Resistance movement
A resistance movement is a group or collection of individual groups, dedicated to opposing an invader in an occupied country or the government of a sovereign state. It may seek to achieve its objects through either the use of nonviolent resistance or the use of armed force...

s across Nazi-occupied Europe consisted partially of children (for example, Szare Szeregi
Szare Szeregi
"Gray Ranks" was a codename for the underground Polish Scouting Association during World War II.The wartime organisation was created on 27 September 1939, actively resisted and fought German occupation in Warsaw until 18 January 1945, and contributed to the resistance operations of the Polish...

in Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

). A number of child soldiers served in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

's armed forces during the war.
In some cases, orphans also unofficially joined the Soviet Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

. Such children were affectionately known as "son of the regiment" and sometimes willingly performed military missions such as reconnaissance.

On the opposite side, Hitler Youth
Hitler Youth
The Hitler Youth was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party. It existed from 1922 to 1945. The HJ was the second oldest paramilitary Nazi group, founded one year after its adult counterpart, the Sturmabteilung...

 (Hitlerjugend) was an organization in Nazi
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 that trained youth physically and indoctrinated them with Nazi ideology to the point of fanaticism
Fanaticism
Fanaticism is a belief or behavior involving uncritical zeal, particularly for an extreme religious or political cause or in some cases sports, or with an obsessive enthusiasm for a pastime or hobby...

. Lewis D. Eigen, in his article on the history of the "normality" of use of child soldiers observed:

The Germans equipped an entire SS Panzer Tank Division
12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend
The 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend was a German Waffen SS armoured division during World War II. The Hitlerjugend was unique because the majority of its junior enlisted men were drawn from members of the Hitler Youth, while the senior NCOs and officers were generally veterans of the Eastern...

 and manned it with 16 and 17-year-old boys from the Hitler Youth brigades. As Germany suffered more casualties, more teenagers volunteered and were accepted, initially as reserve troops but then as regulars. The German ethic of the boy soldier not only encouraged such service but towards the end of the war, the Germans even drafted boys as young as 12 into military service. These children saw extensive action and were among the fiercest and effective German defenders in the Battle of Berlin.


In some cases, youth organizations were, and still are, militarized in order to instill discipline in their ranks, sometimes to indoctrinate them with propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 and prepare for subsequent military service.

In preparation for the possible invasion of Japan by the Allies, Japanese military authorities also trained young teens to fight the enemy with bamboo spears and other (often poorly) improvised weapons. Prior to that, Japanese school children experienced increased military training introduced through their physical education classes, with military drills becoming a staple part of their curriculum. The use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, however, had forstalled the Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands by bringing about the Japanese surrender, and thus rendered these child soldiers unnecessary.

A fifteen year-old Yugoslavian boy named Bosko Buha
Boško Buha
Boško Buha was a young Yugoslav Partisan who used to be one of the greatest icons of World War II in the former Yugoslavia.Boško Buha was born to Serbian parents in the Slavonian village of Gradina, near Virovitica in today's Croatia...

 formed the "Partisan Artillery", a battalion of teenage grenade-throwers. He died in 1943 at the age of seventeen when his truck was ambushed by Chetniks.

Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos



In the most notorious case, the Khmer Rouge
Khmer Rouge
The Khmer Rouge literally translated as Red Cambodians was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, who were the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan...

communist group exploited thousands of desensitized conscripted children to commit mass murders and other inhuman acts during the Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

n genocide. The brainwashed child soldiers were taught to follow any order without hesitation.http://www.rfa.org/english/features/blogs/cambodiablog/2006/07/20/blog6_cambodia_southerland/

Sierra Leone


Thousands of children were recruited and used by all sides during Sierra Leone’s conflict (1993–2002), including the Revolutionary United Front
Revolutionary United Front
The Revolutionary United Front was a rebel army that fought a failed eleven-year war in Sierra Leone, starting in 1991 and ending in 2002. It later developed into a political party, which existed until 2007...

 (RUF), the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council
Armed Forces Revolutionary Council
The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council was a group of Sierra Leone soldiers that allied itself with the rebel Revolutionary United Front in the late 1990s. While the AFRC briefly controlled the country in 1998, it was driven from the capital by a coalition of West African troops...

 (AFRC), and the pro-government Civil Defense Forces (CDF). Children were often forcibly recruited, given drugs and used to commit atrocities. Thousands of girls were also recruited as soldiers and often subjected to sexual exploitation. Many of the children were survivors of village attacks, while others were found abandoned. They were used for patrol purposes, attacking villages, and guarding workers in the diamond fields. In his book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Child Soldier, Ishmael Beah
Ishmael Beah
Ishmael Beah is a former Sierra Leonean child soldier and the author of the published memoir, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.-Early years:...

 chronicles his life during the conflict in Sierra Leone.

In June 2007, the Special Court for Sierra Leone found three accused men from the rebel Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, including the recruitment of children under the age of 15 years into the armed forces. With this, the Special Court became the first-ever UN backed tribunal to deliver a guilty verdict for the military conscription of children.

Uganda


Originally created to protect Northern Ugandans from the 1986 military coup by the People's National Resistance Army
National Resistance Army
The National Resistance Army , the military wing of the National Resistance Movement , was a rebel army that waged a guerrilla war, commonly referred to as the Luwero War or "the war in the bush", against the government of Milton Obote, and later that of Tito Okello.NRA was supported by Muammar...

, Joseph Kony began the LRA - Lord's Resistance Army
Lord's Resistance Army
The Lord's Resistance Army insurgency is an ongoing guerrilla campaign waged since 1987 by the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group, operating mainly in northern Uganda, but also in South Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo...

 in 1987. Stating that he "received messages from God" Kony began attacking his own people - the Acholi - to establish a new theocratic government in Uganda based on the principles of the "Ten Commandments of God." This attempt by the LRA to gain control of the Ugandan government via roaming armies has used boy as well as girl-children as soldiers. The LRA expansion into South Sudan
South Sudan
South Sudan , officially the Republic of South Sudan, is a landlocked country located in the Sahel region of northeastern Africa. It is also part of the North Africa UN sub-region. Its current capital is Juba, which is also its largest city; the capital city is planned to be moved to the more...

, Central African Republic
Central African Republic
The Central African Republic , is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It borders Chad in the north, Sudan in the north east, South Sudan in the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo in the south, and Cameroon in the west. The CAR covers a land area of about ,...

 and the DRC - Democratic Republic of Congo has armies with children active in efforts to destabilize the regions by the displacement of civilians through abduction and extreme violence. A 21 Oct, 2008 appeal by the UN Security Council, was made asking for the LRA to cease all military actions humanitarian violations in the DRC immediately.
On 14 June 2002 Uganda deposited its instrument of ratification of the Rome Statute, and on 16 December 2003 the Government of Uganda referred the situation concerning Northern Uganda to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court
International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression .It came into being on 1 July 2002—the date its founding treaty, the Rome Statute of the...

 (ICC). The ICC investigated the situation, and on 14 October 2005, issued indictments against Lord's Resistance Army
Lord's Resistance Army
The Lord's Resistance Army insurgency is an ongoing guerrilla campaign waged since 1987 by the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group, operating mainly in northern Uganda, but also in South Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo...

 leader Joseph Kony
Joseph Kony
Joseph Kony is an African terrorist who is the head of the Lord's Resistance Army , a guerrilla group that is engaged in a violent campaign to establish theocratic government based on the Ten Commandments in Uganda...

, and four other commanders, (Vincent Otti, Raska Lukwiya (indictment terminated, deceased), Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen) for war crimes. The warrant for Kony, Otti and Odhiambo includes the alleged crime of forced enlisting of children (Rome Statute Art. 8(2)(e)(vii)).

See also


  • Children of War
    Children of War
    Children of War is an award-winning, feature-length documentary film directed by Bryan Single and released in 2010. Filmed in northern Uganda over a period of three years, the story follows the journey of a group of former child soldiers as they undergo a process of trauma therapy and emotional...

  • Lwów Eaglets
    Lwów Eaglets
    Lwów Eaglets is a term of affection applied to the Polish teenagers who defended the city of Lviv in Eastern Galicia, during the Polish-Ukrainian War .-Background:...

  • Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army
    Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army
    Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army is a 2008 documentary film directed by American filmmaker Robert Koenig, and written by Robert Koenig and Brandon Kohrt. The documentary premiered in Hollywood, CA at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre in 2008 at the 5th Annual Artivist Film Festival, where...

  • Trafficking in children
  • Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict
    Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict
    One of the results of the in 2005 was denouncing the use of children in armed conflicts. Yet, to this date, of the world are still being forced to bear arms and wage war side by side with adults...

  • Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention
    Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention
    The Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, known in short as the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, was adopted by the International Labour Organization in 1999 as ILO Convention No 182. It is one of 8 ILO fundamental...


Further reading




External links