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July 2000

Take Action!: Stop the Use of Children as Soldiers

ALERT: Contact Congress

You can use our Congressional e-mail generator to send your approval of the resolution to your Representative.

A newly proposed Congressional resolution condemns the use of child soldiers and supports a new international treaty the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict to prevent this practice. House Congressional Resolution 348, introduced by Representatives John Lewis and Tom Lantos, also urges that the President and Congress work to fund rehabilitation efforts for former child soldiers, encourages the US to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol, and asks the Departments of State and Defense to encourage other governments to ratify the treaty.

The text of the resolution is available at http://thomas.loc.gov. (Type "H. Con. Res. 348" in the "Search Congress by Bill Number.")

On May 25, 2000, the United Nations General Assembly approved the Optional Protocol. It will enter into force three months after ten governments have ratified it.

Implementation of this treaty requires strong leadership from the US and other nations. It is hoped that the US, which has shown support for the treaty, will move to ratify it quickly. Under US law, the Senate ratifies treaties following a Presidential signature. President Clinton signed the treaty on July 5, 2000.

The treaty, although not as strong as hoped, can further help protect many children who participate in wars or armed forces or who face recruitment. More than 300,000 children, some as young as 7, are fighting in armed conflicts in more than 30 conflicts around the world. Use our Congressional e-mail generator to send a letter to your representative, urging her or him to support H. Con. Res. 348. We have a sample letter or you can write your own.

Provisions of the Optional Protocol:

  • States must take "all feasible measures" to ensure that persons under 18 do not take a direct part in combat.
  • Persons under 18 shall not be "compulsorily recruited" (forced or drafted).
  • Nongovernmental armed groups cannot recruit or use children (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) who are under age 18. States are required to prevent and criminalize such use.
  • States must make the minimum age for voluntary enlistment in government armies no younger than 16.
  • States which permit voluntary enlistment by persons under age 18 shall have safeguards such as parental consent and proof of age.
  • States should take steps to help with the demobilization, reintegration, and rehabilitation of child soldiers used in violation of the agreement.

 

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