In 2000, UN Convention 182–the “Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention”–came into force. This statute declared that the “forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict” fell within the worst forms of child labor and included provisions to move toward its elimination. Today an estimated 250,000 children continue to be enslaved as soldiers.

From playground to battleground: children on the frontline in Somalia

from The Guardian, reporter Mohamad Shil

As the rattle of gunfire becomes louder, Mohamed Abdi sits in the corner of a Mogadishu restaurant wondering how much longer he can survive in one of the world’s most dangerous capital cities. “Mogadishu is full of miseries. Sometimes you fall into traps and can be abducted by either government forces or insurgents, to fight for their cause,” says the 15-year-old.

Thousands have been displaced because of fighting between government forces and al-Shabaab, a militant Islamist group linked to al-Qaida. Abdi is fortunate in that he recently found work as a waiter, but not so long ago he was involved in urban warfare.

As Somalia‘s civil conflict continues, the use of child soldiers is causing growing concern. In a report last month, Amnesty International detailed cases of children as young as nine being forced into combat. The report – In the line of fire: Somalia’s children under attack – exposes the ongoing conflict’s impact on children, arguing that both Somalia’s transitional federal government and al-Shabaab are guilty of gross human rights violations.

“As a child in Somalia, you risk death all the time,” says Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa. “You can be killed, recruited and sent to the frontline, punished by al-Shabaab because you are caught listening to music or wearing the ‘wrong’ clothes, be forced to fend for yourself because you have lost your parents, or even die because you don’t have access to adequate medical care.”

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Police Arrest Ex-Maoist Child Soldiers in Nepal

AFP

KATHMANDU – At least 40 former Maoist child soldiers, freed last year from camps, were detained Monday during a protest to demand better training to help them reintegrate into civilian life, police said.

They were among more than 4,000 minors who had served in the Maoist army during Nepal’s decade-long civil war and were discharged from UN-supervised camps last year after officials discovered they had been underage combatants.

“We detained the young people because they were blocking vehicles in public places. Around 100 protesters had gathered,” Kathmandu police chief Kedar Rijal told AFP.

Under the discharge scheme, the former child soldiers were supposed to undergo a government training program funded by the United Nations.

The program aimed to provide the young people with a choice of formal schooling, vocational training in such areas as tailoring, education to become health workers and help in setting up small businesses.

But the protesters said the training had left them “only half-skilled”.

“We can’t re-integrate into the society because we still face a stigma. We’re not properly trained for any job. The government must provide us with a long-term solution,” Krishna Prasad Dangal told AFP. “We are only half-skilled,” he said.

Police did not say when they expected to release the young people. The fate of the more than 19,000 older former Maoist fighters, who have been living in camps across the impoverished Himalayan nation since the civil war ended in 2006, is still unclear.

Nepal’s political leaders are split over whether to allow the ex-rebels to join the country’s military.… Read the rest

Child Soldiers Add Questions for Pakistan

Bill Gunyon, OneWorld Guides

(OneWorld.net) – A new focus on Pakistan in the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on Children and Armed Conflict may complicate the task of rebuilding relations with the US in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Submitted to the Security Council as part of the UN’s responsibility for promoting and protecting the rights of children, Ban Ki-moon’s 55-page report paints a grim picture of the entrapment of both boys and girls in the world’s most degrading conflicts.

From the section headed “Developments in Pakistan”, it is clear that children have become active agents within the flow of warmongering personnel and equipment across the notoriously porous border with Afghanistan. Their assignments range from passive couriers to tragically unwitting suicide bombers in both countries.

The report refers to the escalation of terrorist and sectarian violence across Pakistan by groups linked to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, such as Tehrik-i-Taliban and Lashkar i Jhangvi. “Children have been used by these armed groups to carry out suicide attacks,” the UN says.

The most damning evidence is cited by the UN child rights monitoring team in Afghanistan which claims to possess “documented and verified cases of Afghan children recruited and trained in Pakistan by armed groups, including the Taliban.”

Such exploitation of children from both countries inside Pakistan will come as a disappointment to UN agencies after earlier reassurances given by Pakistan authorities.

In his corresponding report published a year ago, the Secretary-General referred to Pakistan’s formal submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.… Read the rest

Child Soldiers are being used by Muammar al-Gaddafi’s Regime

from the news.scotsman.com:

 Gaddafi’s new force of child soldiers revealed

By Ruth Sherlock

COLONEL Muammar al-Gaddafi is using child soldiers in his battle to regain the besieged Libyan town of Misrata, The Scotsman has learned.

Boys as young as 15 are being conscripted, say government troops captured by the rebels.

Ninety boys, between the ages of 15 and 19, were called to military barracks in Tripoli “for training” as soon as the 17 February popular uprising began, Murad, 16, and another captive, Abdul, have independently told The Scotsman.

Speaking from different medical clinics in the besieged city, the young men were unwilling to reveal their full identities for fear of reprisals against their relatives in areas still controlled by the dictator’s forces.

The use of soldiers younger than 18 in combat adds to the list of war crimes accusations against Col Gaddafi, after it emerged in the last few days that his units were using Spanish-made cluster bombs in Misrata – which pose particular risk to civilians because they scatter small bomblets over a wide area. Most of the world’s nations have banned the use of the munitions. The Libyan government has rejected the allegations. Read more