UN advocate for children in armed conflict hails United States legislative steps

17 September 2008The United Nations envoy for children and armed conflict today praised the United States for the introduction of new legislation that aims to tackle the recruitment and use of the estimated 250,000 child soldiers worldwide. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said the passage of one act dealing with the scourge and the imminent passage of another was a welcome step forward.“The Child Soldiers Prevention and Accountability Act send a clear message that recruitment and use of child soldiers is unlawful,” she said, according to a press release issued by her office. “Perpetrators of such crimes could also become accountable under US domestic legislation. “The Child Soldiers Accountability Act, which received bipartisan support from the Senate and House of Representatives, criminalizes the recruitment and use of child soldiers, while also giving the US the authority to deny admission or to deport individuals for such grave child rights violations. Still to be passed, the Child Soldiers Prevention Act will heighten the campaign against child soldiering through restricting the transfer of military technology, the prohibition of arms export licences, and provision of US military assistance to curb governments or paramilitaries conscripting children under the age of 15.Today, more than 250,000 children continue to be exploited as child soldiers. The global fight against impunity for the recruitment and use of child soldiers will be strongly enhanced, Ms. Coomaraswamy said, by the implementation of both acts.Collaborative efforts over the last eight years between the Office of the Special Representative, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other UN entities and Member States have resulted in significant advances, actions and tangible results for children affected by armed conflict, according to her office.Ms. Coomaraswamy stated: “The unique engagement of the Security Council through resolution 1612 played a crucial role in awakening the conscience of the international community and has started to bring results at a global level.” Previous indictments for violations of international law through the recruitment and use of child soldiers include: Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, founder and leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC); and Major Jean-Pierre Biyoyo of the Mudundo Forty armed group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A former head of State, Charles Ghankay Taylor of Liberia, is currently on trial in the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) facing an 11-count indictment for crimes against humanity, including the act of enlisting child soldiers.The Special Representative embraced the US move as a catalyst to further the global fight against child soldiering. “US engagement will add impetus in bringing tangible changes to the child soldiers issue around the globe,” she said. read more