Improve integration of child soldiers

Thousands of children are still being kidnapped, coerced and recruited into non-state armed groups, as they continue to be targeted and victimised.

Former child soldiers march in a release ceremony in Pibor, South Sudan. During the ceremony, they received civilian clothes. © UNICEF/Bullen Chol

“Child victims who have been forced or lured into armed groups suffer a broad range of human rights violations and abuses, including their right to life, right to not be subjected to sexual violence or other forms of torture, right to education and right to freedom of thought conscience and religion,” said Saeed Mokbil, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the rights of peoples to self-determination.  Mokbil made his statement during the presentation of the Group’s report during the Human Rights Council.

The report looks specifically at the recruitment of children by non-State armed groups, including mercenaries, noting that this is itself a grave violation of international law. It also looks at the recruitment of former child soldiers into private military and security companies (PMSCs).

“We have found that often the motivation for former child soldiers to work for PMSCs is a result of failure to reintegrate into society,” Mokbil said.   “Some companies may take advantage of these individuals who are a form of cheap labour despite their experience in combat and armed conflict.”

The Working Group also looked at factors that motivate children join non-State armed groups. They found that, in addition to forced recruitment, there were other motivations including poverty, hunger and financial insecurity.

These reasons underpinned some of the Working Group’s recommendations, including that prevention measures should focus on rehabilitation and reintegration of children, addressing root causes that foster child recruitment into armed conflicts.

“The Working Group is concerned about the punitive approach taken by some States towards children associated with armed groups and insists that the best interests of the child should be the primary consideration” Mokbil said.

In addition, the report recommends Member States to criminalize the recruitment and use of children under the age of 18 in armed conflict and create better oversight of private military and security companies in their recruitment practices.

1 October 2018

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