Overview of the Issue
In some countries, children are still unprotected and viewed as cheap resources to be used in military activities. For the period of 2013-2018, 29,128 cases of using children as soldiers in 17 countries were reported, but actual numbers are higher (Varfolomeeva). In the legal context of promoting human rights, child soldiers are defined as people below the age of 18, who are involved in military activities as part of armed forces (Rakisits 109). The problem of recruiting children is acute because it is rather easy for military organisations to coerce and victimise them. After researching this issue, it is necessary to conclude how the enforcement of human rights laws can be realised to address this issue.
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Overview of a Case Study
The example of the country where child soldiers are actively used and the lack of legislation to combat this issue is observed is the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In Kamuina Nsapu militia, about 50-70% of ranks are covered by children. These young human resources are usually utilised as human shields (US Department of State 17). Their rights are not protected in the DRC, and the United Nations (UN) works to release as many young soldiers per year as possible.
The major international human rights treaty that regulates the issue of using children as soldiers is the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC). The treaty was signed and ratified by 170 states, including the DRC (Rakisits 109-111). Still, military conflicts in the country are associated with the active use of children, which indicates the ineffectiveness of this treaty to control the situation.
To monitor the realisation of the Convention and OPAC, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child was established. Referring to the situation in the DRC, it is possible to state that the Committee works in cooperation with the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) to help the official government of the DRC overcome the problem (US Department of State 16-20). However, the taken steps can be regarded as sporadic, and a systematic approach to regulating the issue is required.
Focusing on the effectiveness of the domestic law, it is important to note that, in the DRC, the Congolese military law prohibits the recruitment of children as people under the age of 18. However, the problem is that the state’s Constitution does not specify the minimum age. Furthermore, the DRC did not ratify the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to protect children’s interests (Rakisits 117). Consequently, the existing legal measures are not enough and effective to control the military recruitment of children in the country.
To support governmental and international activities in prohibiting the use of children as soldiers, such non-governmental organisations as the DRC Child Soldiers Coalition and Child Soldiers International perform in the DRC. Their tasks are to help children be released from armed forces and avoid recruitment (US Department of State 16-20). However, the high percentage of young soldiers in local armies indicate that their actions are not sufficient.
Although only limited actions are taken to address the issue of child soldiers in the DRC, the recent event reflected in the media indicates the positive enforcement of laws in the country. In November 2019, Bosco Ntaganda, a militia leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots was convicted of numerous crimes, and the use of children as soldiers is among them (The Associated Press). More media coverage of crimes of militia leaders in the DRC is needed.
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To conclude, legal measures to address the issue of child soldiers are not effective enough to overcome the problem in the nearest future. The law enforcement is required at both international and local levels. Furthermore, certain non-legal measures can be seen as even more working in this context, as actual steps are required to protect children from militia’s recruitment in the DRC and other countries.
The Associated Press. “Congolese Warlord Sentenced to 30 Years for War Crimes.” The New York Times. 2019. Web.
Rakisits, Claude. “Child Soldiers in the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Refugee Survey Quarterly, vol. 27, no. 4, 2017, pp. 108-122. Web.
US Department of State. Democratic Republic of the Congo 2018 Human Rights Report. 2018. Web.
Varfolomeeva, Anna. “Number of Child Soldiers Involved in Conflicts Worldwide Jumps 159% in 5 Years.” The Defense Post. 2019. Web.