[R-G] Fw: LEVELLERS ESSAY 32. Using children to wage war.
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Mon Feb 16 17:26:00 MST 2004
----- Original Message -----
From: "Harry Throssell" <harold at austarmetro.com.au>
Sent: Monday, February 16, 2004 12:56
Subject: LEVELLERS ESSAY 32. Using children to wage war.
USING CHILDREN TO WAGE WAR
by Harry Throssell
Half the amount spent on military in some countries
would educate their children
a.. Amnesty International
Warning. This essay contains material which may be distressing to some
readers. It includes descriptions of extreme violence carried out on and by
'One day, my friends and I were forced by our commanders to kill a family. I
ran away to the forest but soldiers found me and brought me back . They
imprisoned me and beat me every day. Today I am afraid. I don't know how to
read, I don't know where my family is. I have no future, my life is lost. At
night I can no longer sleep, I keep thinking of those horrible things I have
seen and done as a soldier' - 15-year-old boy from the Democratic Republic
of Congo who fought with armed forces from the age of nine.
'Seven weeks after I arrived there was combat, an attack on the
paramilitaries. We killed about seven of them. They killed one of us. We had
to drink their blood to conquer our fear. Only the scared ones had to do it.
I was the most scared of all, because I was the newest and the youngest' - a
Colombian girl recruited at age 12 to the opposition Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC).
'When trainees were caught trying to run away, their hands and feet were
beaten with a bamboo stick, they were put in shackles and beaten and poked
again and again, and then they were taken to the lock up' - boy age 13
abducted by Burma's government forces.
In DRCongo children were forced to commit rape, sexual torture, and constant
beatings - Control Arms Campaign.
Amnesty International: 'The world's child soldiers face horrible dangers and
suffering, both physical and psychological . [W]eapons are used to force
child soldiers to commit gross abuses, including killing, torture and
mutilation, even against their own families . one child, recruited at nine,
told how he was forced at gunpoint to "kill people by forcing them to stay
in their homes while we burned them down". Another, at age 11, had to put a
mother and children in a hole and bury them alive'.
Rory Carroll reports from Uganda 'The hide-and-seek begins at bedtime when
thousands of small figures emerge from grass huts and tramp towards the town
of Kitgum in the gloom . Out in the bush, unseen, are other children: the
seekers armed with AK-47s, clubs and knives . If the hiders are found by the
the child warriors of the Lord's Resistance Army, they are killed on the
spot, marched into the bush and killed, or marched into the bush and forced
to become killers themselves'. Some are lured by the promise of loot and
prestige, some given drugs and alcohol. Fourteen thousand children have been
abducted, 8,000 have escaped or are dead, leaving 6,000 in the LRA. There
are scores of raids on schools, hundreds hacked to death. Some join
voluntarily to defend their communities. A 13-year-old boy tells of being
forced to beat another boy to death because he tried to escape, another
described the best technique for clubbing a child to death. 'I didn't have
pity', he said, 'they were my orders'. There are documented cases of
recruits forced to kill relatives, to cook and eat human flesh. The LRA is
led by a 'mystic' who wants to rule Uganda according to the Ten
Whatever happened to 'Thou shalt not kill'?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is increasingly recognised in adults as a
severe, chronic health problem often caused by the psychological effects of
war experience, in some cases dating way back to the First World War. It has
significant effects on relationships, employment, and peace of mind.
Imagine, then, the damage to children, especially when they are forced to
torture, mutilate and kill other children and family members.
Nearly all violent conflicts in recent decades have taken place between
warring groups within national boundaries, 90 per cent of the victims women
and children, many children forced to fight even against their own people.
There have been more than 30 such wars in poor African countries alone since
Which isn't to say the richer, industrialised world is not also
characterised by violence, sending troops and weapons to major overseas
conflicts, and also struggling to cope with the prevalence of the gun back
home. The United Nations refers to the way 'pervasive violence [in] a
pattern of explosive moments in families and communities, in mass media and
entertainment . trickles down from one generation to the next, turning
children reared on violence into violent adults', with 'small arms and light
weapons finding their way from manufacturers to schoolrooms, with tragic
Throughout 2003 many thousands of children around the globe found themselves
military combatants, sex slaves, unpaid labourers, messengers, informants
and servants in continuing and newly erupting conflicts. In the decade since
the adoption by the UN of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, upwards
of two million children have been killed in armed conflict, more than eight
million seriously injured or permanently disabled, more than one million
effectively orphaned, over 15 million displaced from home, and an unknown
number psychologically traumatised, forced to witness or take part in
horrifying acts of violence. Some 10,000 children are killed or maimed by
landmines every year.
According to AI, there are currently 300,000 children, some as young as
seven, in armed conflict across 85 countries, aided by the 'unbridled
international trade in weapons'. In the Rwanda genocide of 1994, a quarter
of a million children were slaughtered, scores more thousands tortured and
injured, hundreds of thousands more watched as parents and families were
massacred by people they knew. In DRCongo, Cote D'Ivoire and Liberia, a
massive increase in child recruitment occurred in early 2003. Thousands of
children in northern Uganda continued to flee their homes at night to avoid
being abducted by the LRA. In Burma 70,000 children, nearly one-quarter of
the world's junior soldiers, are in the government's armed forces, often
abducted while on the way to school and taken to military camps where they
are subjected to beatings, forced labour and routinely sent as young as 12
into battle. Reports from Colombia reveal the number of children used by
armed groups has increased to around 11,000 in recent years, with children
of 12 trained and deployed to use explosives and weapons. In Sri Lanka the
abduction of children by the armed opposition Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE)
has continued unabated.
Some children enlist voluntarily as a means of survival in war-torn regions
after family, social and economic structures have collapsed, because of
poverty, unemployment, domestic violence or exploitation, or after seeing
family members tortured or killed. In a United Nations Children's Fund
survey of 3000 children in Rwanda, 80 per cent had lost immediate family
members, more than one third having witnessed their murders.
Child soldiers have also been reported in Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi,
Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Israel and the Occupied
Palestine Territories. Most countries with large numbers of child soldiers
are shown in UN records to be the world's poorest.
Young females face particular problems. In Liberia, a 15 year old girl
became a soldier after witnessing the rape of her mother, in the hope of
gaining revenge. She became the reluctant 'girl friend' of a 28-year-old
man, with her own Kalashnikov rifle. In addition to involvement in combat,
girls attached to Colombian armed groups reported enforced use of
contraceptives and abortion.
When there are programs to release children from combat, girls are often
excluded from both demobilisation and rehabilitation processes. In Sierra
Leone hundreds of girls were left with their rebel captors. In DRCongo,
thousands of girls are thought to be involved in armed groups, but when 1000
youngsters were demobilised by Save the Children only nine females were
included. Girls are more likely to be overlooked if they don't serve in
obvious combat roles, while some may be reluctant to be demobilised because
of embarrassment about their association with military forces in which
sexual abuse is common. Also, as Jo Becker observed in the Human Rights
Watch World Report 2004, 'Some programs are not designed with girls'
particular needs in mind despite the large numbers involved'.
'These statistics are shocking enough, but more chilling is the conclusion
to be drawn from them: more and more of the world is being sucked into a
desolate moral vacuum, a space devoid of the most basic human values, a
space in which children are slaughtered, raped and maimed, where children
are exploited as soldiers, starved and exposed to extreme brutality',
reported Graca Machel, a former Minister for Education in Mozambique and the
UN Secretary-General's expert on the impact of war on child soldiers. 'The
sense of dislocation and chaos that characterize contemporary armed
conflicts can be attributed to many factors, such as political upheavals and
struggles for control over resources in the face of widespread poverty and
economic disarray. The callousness of modern warfare may be a natural
outcome of the social revolutions that have torn traditional societies
apart. But whatever the causes, the time has come to call a halt. The
international community must proclaim attacks on children for what they
are - intolerable and unacceptable'.
Children lucky enough to survive a conflict not only bear deep psychological
scars but also pay a heavy price for their abandoned schooling in
permanently diminished economic opportunities, the World Bank notes.
RESPONSIBILITY OF ARMS SUPPLIERS
There are massive numbers of weapons available. Where are they from? The top
five global exporters of arms are the United States (41 per cent of world
sales), Russia (22 per cent), France (9), Germany (5.4) and United Kingdom
(5.2). Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Russia and China have provided arms or other
military equipment to Burma, despite that government's widespread
recruitment of children. Since 1999, Angola's child soldiers have used arms
from Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Russia,
and Ukraine, while UK also approved exports of military equipment.
'Arms-supplying countries bear a measure of responsibility for the abuses
carried out with the weapons they furnish', Becker writes. 'As a matter of
principle, countries should stop weapons transfers to parties known to use
child soldiers'. HRW proposes military assistance should be given only on
condition that recruitment practices exclude children. In 1999, UK reached
an agreement with the government of Sierra Leone to provide a £10 million
package of assistance conditional on an assurance that children would not be
used by the armed forces, which, with some hiccups, seems to have been
effective. Belgium has barred arms transfers to forces that use child
The US Congress adopted legislation that makes trade benefits availabe only
to countries eliminating the worst forms of child labour, including
recruitment for armed conflict. To date, however, the US government has not
revoked any country's trade preferences because it uses child soldiers. In
2002 both DRCongo and Burundi were listed as beneficiaries of US trade
benefits even though both had been cited by the UN for use of child
soldiers. Only Pakistan has had trade benefits partially suspended because
of child labour issues.
In July 1998, 120 governments adopted the Rome Statute for the International
Criminal Court, defining the conscription, enlistment, or use in hostilities
of children under 15 as a war crime. The next year, the International Labor
Organization decided to prohibit the forced recruitment of children under 18
for armed conflict as part of the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention. In
May 2000, the UN adopted the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the
Rights of the Child, which came into force in February 2002. The main
agreements were (1) States are to ensure members of their armed forces below
the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities; and (2) States are
to ensure there is no compulsory recruitment into armed forces of those
Intensive lobbying, notably by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child
Soldiers (CSUCS), helped build a global consensus. By mid-December 2003, 67
states had ratified the Optional Protocol - although this doesn't
necessarily mean they conform to it. The African Charter on the Rights and
Welfare of the Child (1999) also established 18 as the minimum age for all
compulsory military recruitment and participation in hostilities.
Since the UN Security Council began to address the protection of children in
armed conflict in 1999, member states and the international community have
repeatedly condemned the 'despicable and damaging practices' perpetrated
against children during war. The UN has included child protection as an
element of peacekeeping operations and supported demobilisation and
reintegration programs. Security Council resolutions have made it clear
targeting of children for violence or for use as soldiers must be stopped.
In November 2001, the UN Security Council asked the Secretary General to
compile a list of governments and organisations recruiting or using child
soldiers in violation of international obligations. After this list of
violators was made public - the 'name and shame' strategy - the Council
called in January 2003 for additional steps against those who failed to show
they were ending these crimes.
In spite of all these decisions, however, CSUCS has shown that remarkably
little progress has been made. In fact, information from 17 countries from
January to September 2003 revealed some violators had increased recruitment
of children. In spite of a global five year campaign the use of child
soldiers persists in at least twenty countries, according to HRW, and the
total number of child soldiers remains fairly constant. Both Uganda and
DRCongo have ratified the Optional Protocol, nevertheless flout it. In
DRCongo a 2000 presidential decree calling for demobilisation of children is
also ignored. The Ugandan People's Defense Force recruits former child
members of the LRA, and abduction rates reached such record levels in 2002
and 2003 that observers described the fighting forces as 'armies of
While the end of wars in Sierra Leone, Angola, and elsewhere freed thousands
of child soldiers, new conflicts in Liberia and Côte D'Ivoire drew in
thousands of new recruits. In Colombia, the paramilitary United Self-Defense
Forces of Colombia (AUC), which includes over 2,000 children, many as young
as seven, often works in close collaboration with the Colombian military,
which officially prohibits the recruitment of children.
MIXED RESPONSE TO CALLS FOR ACTION
Since 1999 the minimum age of recruitment has been raised to 18 years in
South Africa, Portugal, Denmark, Finland and Colombia, the latter
discharging 800 children from government forces. In Afghanistan the minimum
recruitment age is now 22. Until 2002, the US routinely recruited 17
year-olds on a volunteer basis, and deployed them in conflict situations but
now excludes them from combat. Britain recruits at age 16, one of the lowest
official voluntary recruitment ages of any country, and has been the only
European country to send under-18s routinely into battle. When ratifying the
Optional Protocol in early 2003, UK made a declaration stating it would
continue to deploy under-18s in situations of 'genuine military need'. CSUCS
and other human rights advocates saw the UK declaration as contrary to the
purpose of the Protocol, and said it should be considered null and void. A
change came when the UK government announced it would not deploy under-18s
in the 2003 Iraq war, whereas in the 1991 Gulf War over 200 British
under-18s participated, two of whom died.
However, Becker writes, 'HRW is aware of no examples of military aid being
cut off or other sanctions imposed on a government or armed group for its
use of child soldiers. Conversely, when armed forces or groups do improve
their practices, benefits also frequently fail to materialize'. In nearly
every conflict where governments use child soldiers, opposition forces do
also. But when governments do not recruit children, as in Nepal, the
Philippines, or Sri Lanka, use of child soldiers by opposition forces may
still be routine.
By late 2003, demobilisation and rehabilitation for former child soldiers
were at least beginning in eight African countries, also in Colombia,
Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka. However, these programs were mostly available to
only a small percentage of the children, and in some countries practically
nonexistent. In Angola, although a peace agreement was reached in April
2002, as at January 2004 rehabilitation services had not been set up for up
to 11,000 children. The DRCongo government issued a decree in June 2000 to
demobilise child soldiers from government forces, but complained it was
unable to implement the plan 'because donors had not provided sufficient
resources'. The UN Secretary-General's special representative on children
and armed conflict, Olara Otunnu, has secured a number of high-profile
commitments from non-state armed groups not to recruit children, although
few have been kept. In 1998 Otunnu received an agreement from Sri Lanka's
LTTE, but in 2001 UNICEF reported recruitment had actually increased.
Although Security Council members have urged those responsible for
recruitment of child soldiers should be arrested and prosecuted, this hasn't
happened and the Council's 'name and shame' strategy has yet to yield
results. From late 2002 to mid-2003 the list of violators actually
increased, and several of those on the Secretary-General's list
significantly escalated their use of child soldiers. In Burma, recruiters
are subject to imprisonment for up to seven years for recruiting children
under age, but not only are these laws routinely ignored, recruiters receive
incentives in the form of cash and rice for every recruit - regardless of
age - they deliver to recruitment centres.
The use of child soldiers by non-government forces is a more intractable
problem because there are fewer pressures that can be brought to bear, but
many armed groups are sensitive to world opinion and a growing number have
made a public commitment to end the practice. Unfortunately, however, these
commitments are sometimes made because of public relations benefits when
there is lack of political will or resources to carry them out.
CSUCS believes all parties involving children in armed conflict should be
held accountable for their actions to the Security Council. Action must also
be taken against those involved indirectly by providing arms and financial
assistance. 'Impunity fuels child recruitment. Without a credible threat of
disciplinary action, recruiters will continue to seek out children, who are
easily intimidated by threats, easily lured by promises', writes Becker.
Impunity can be challenged through national courts, tribunals, and since
1998 the International Criminal Court has had the authority to prosecute as
war criminals those using children under 18 in hostilities.
The Return of Happiness program, an attempt to relieve psychic scars caused
by killing and chaos through music, art and play, first developed in
Mozambique in 1992 and used in Ecuador, Colombia, and Nicaragua, is
described in The State of the World's Children 2000.
The same report describes The Global Movement for Children as an
'unstoppable crusade to end the poverty, ill health, violence and
discrimination that have needlessly blighted and destroyed so many young
lives . As members of the human family, each of us is responsible. All of us
Oxfam / Community Aid Abroad, Amnesty International, and the International
Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) recently started the Control Arms
Campaign under the international presidency of Mary Robinson, former UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Presidential Papers.
Oxfam, Amnesty International, International Action Network on Small Arms
(IANSA), Control Arms Campaign, 2003, www.controlarms.org
Amnesty International, Shattered Lives, 2003, www.amnesty.org.au
Rory Carroll, Children trapped in deadly game of hide-and-seek, Guardian
Weekly, 3 July 2003; and Sham demobilisation hides rise in Congo's child
armies, Guardian Weekly, 11 September 2003.
The State of the World's Children 2000 / 2002, www.unicef.org/sowc00 /
United Nations Human Development Report 2002 / 2003, www.undp.org/hdr2002 /
Jo Becker, Children as weapons of war, Human Rights Watch World Report,
January 2004, //hrw.org/wr2k4/
Emily Wax, Rape and despair put Liberian girls on warpath, Washington Post /
Guardian Weekly, 11 September 2003.
Graca Machel, Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, UNICEF 1996.
World Bank, World Development Report 2000 / 2001, Attacking Poverty, Oxford
Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers 2004,
Say Yes for Children, www.gmfc.org
14 February 2004, Brisbane, Australia.
harold at austarmetro.com.au
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