Context:

The United States of America has added Pakistan and 14 other countries to a Child Soldier Recruiter List that identifies foreign governments having government-supported armed groups that recruit or use child soldiers.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Important International Treaties and Agreements, India’s Neighbors)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Child Soldiers and International Regulations
  2. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
  3. About the US Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA)
  4. About the Child Soldier Recruiter List of 2021
  5. Criticisms of the list

Child Soldiers and International Regulations

  • The recruitment or use of children below the age of 15 as soldiers is prohibited by both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions, and is considered a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
  • Based on the Cape Town principles (1997), child soldiers are generally defined as “any person under eighteen years of age who is a member of or attached to the armed political forces or an armed political group, whether or not there is an armed conflict.”
  • In addition, the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the involvement of children in armed conflict further prohibits kids under the age 18 from being compulsorily recruited into state or non-state armed forces or directly engaging in hostilities.
  • The United Nations, too, has identified the recruitment and use of child soldiers as among six “grave violations” affecting children in war and has established numerous monitoring and reporting mechanisms and initiatives to combat this practice. The UN verified that over 7,000 children had been recruited and used as soldiers in 2019 alone.

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child s an international human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children.
  • The Convention defines a child as any human being under the age of eighteen, unless the age of majority is attained earlier under national legislation.
  • Nations that have ratified this convention or have acceded to it are bound by international law.
  • The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, composed of 18 independent experts, is responsible for supervising the implementation of the Convention by the states that have ratified it.
  • Their governments are required to report to and appear before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child periodically to be examined on their progress regarding the advancement of the implementation of the Convention and the status of child rights in their country.
  • Also, individuals can appeal to the Committee on the Rights of the Child if they believe that rights, according to the Convention, have been violated.

About the US Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA)

  • The US Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) requires the publication in the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report a list of foreign governments that have recruited or used child soldiers during the previous year.
  • The law criminalizes leading a military force which recruits child soldiers. The law’s definition of child soldiers includes “any person under 18 years of age who takes a direct part in hostilities as a member of governmental armed forces.”
  • The CSPA bans the United States from providing military assistance or arms sales to governments that use children in combat, but the president may waive the application of the law.
  • It also requires the US Secretary of State to designate portions of the annual Human Rights Report to the issue of child soldiers.

About the Child Soldier Recruiter List of 2021

The countries which have been added to the annual TIP list of the US State Department this year are: Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

What are prohibited for countries in the list?

The following types of security assistance are prohibited for countries that are in the list:

  1. Licenses for direct commercial sales of military equipment
  2. Foreign military financing for the purchase of defense articles and services, as well as design and construction services
  3. International military education and training
  4. Excess defense articles
  5. Peacekeeping operations

The countries will also not be eligible for the US Department of Defence’s “train and equip” authority for building the capacity of foreign defense forces.

Criticisms of the list

  • International treaties and instruments, such as the CRC and its Optional Protocol regarding children in armed conflict, are valuable and necessary tools to establish international norms as they raise awareness regarding human rights abuses. However, these treaties are limited in scope and nature, and they tend to be idealistic rather than practicable.
  • The UN’s mechanisms only bind state parties that ratify the treaties. It therefore has no authority over countries that are not parties to the convention or are non-state entities, such as rebel militias recruiting child soldiers.
  • It also relies on the signatories themselves to implement its doctrines and prevent human rights abuses around the world. Therefore, most of the responsibility in preventing such abuses lies with the individual countries themselves.
  • While the UN views its treaties and conventions as binding on state parties, it has no police power mechanism to enforce its decisions. Therefore, the CRC and its Optional Protocol are limited by the signatories’ willingness to comply. Somalia, for example, is a signatory but it hasn’t ratified the convention.

-Source: Indian Express

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