The United States recently added Pakistan and Turkey to its Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) list, a designation that could lead to strict sanctions on military assistance and listed countries’ participation in peacekeeping programmes.
Key Details on 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 countries which have been added to the annual Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA)’s 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.
- 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.
Optional Protocol of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- 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.
- 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 States is a party to the Optional Protocol.
- Outside of the United States, the international community responded to human rights abuses inflicted on children by enacting the CRC. The CRC was adopted on November 20, 1989 and entered into force on September 2, 1990.
- Currently, 193 countries have ratified the CRC. The CRC requires state parties to “take all feasible measures” to ensure that children under 18 are not engaged in direct hostilities. It further prohibits the state parties from recruiting children under 15 into the armed forces.
- In 2000, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
- While the CRC requires states to refrain from using children under 15 in direct hostilities, the Optional Protocol raises this age to 18.
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.
What do critics say about 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.
Back to Basics
The Optional Protocol
The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict aims to protect children from recruitment and use in hostilities.
- The Protocol was adopted by the General Assembly on 25 May 2000 and entered into force on 12 February 2002.
- At present, 171 countries have ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
- There are 17 countries that have neither signed nor ratified the protocol and 9 countries that have signed but are yet to ratify.
- India have signed and ratified the treaty.
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