FOR ERADICATING THE RECRUITMENT OF
The Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights (IACHR) has been concerned for some time about the use of children
and adolescents in armed conflicts and the consequences that experience had and
still have for them. It has seen the declaration adopted at the Latin American
and Caribbean Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers (Montevideo, July
which urges the IACHR to adopt a recommendation on this issue and further urges
its Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child to include this issue in the
Commission’s Annual Report.
The Declaration and the American Convention on Human Rights recognize
that all children, without discrimination, have the right to special protection,
care, and assistance, and to measures required by their status as minors, from
their families, society, and the state. Similarly, the Inter-American Charter of
Social Guarantees bars children under 14 from being employed and children under
18 from engaging in dangerous work, and commits the states to guaranteeing
conditions enabling minors to complete compulsory basic education.
In agreement with this are the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
Convention No. 182 of the International Labour Organization,
and rules of humanitarian law, particularly Protocols 1 and 2 to the Geneva
Conventions. Recently, the Statute
of the International Criminal Court made “conscripting or enlisting children
under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to
participate actively in hostilities,” whether committed by state armed forces,
paramilitary forces, or armed dissident groups, a war crime carrying
international criminal liability.
Investigations by the Commission
and papers presented at the Conference in Montevideo show that, although this
situation is less serious in the Americas than in other regions of the world,
thousands of children and adolescents still participate in armed conflicts in
some countries in the region. In some cases, consent is given by their families,
who feel they must subject their children to this situation in order to survive.
In this poverty-afflicted region, child labor involves between 15 and 19%
of children between 10 and 14 years of age.
laws in most member countries establish a minimum age of 18 for conscription,
practices violating the human rights of children persist. The Commission finds
such practices comparable to slavery and forced servitude. One example is the
forced “drafting” by state military forces, which generally recruit young
people from poor and/or indigenous families. Armed dissident groups also recruit
minors, often through kidnapping, or by forcing families to surrender them as
contributions to the war.
The use of children and adolescents
in armed conflicts places their lives, well-being, and education at great risk.
They are forced to use high-caliber weapons. They are required to lay
explosives, to kill other children who are considered “traitors” or change
their minds, and to participate in kidnappings, surveillance, and bomb
intelligence work. In some cases, children as young as eight are used for these
perilous tasks. These illegal, perverse practices subject boys, girls, and
youths to the inherent risks of combat, to sexual abuse, and to other forms of
abusive, brutal, and humiliating treatment. They are drawn into a culture of
violence, and their rights to education and to ordinary participation in society
Moreover, the Commission has found
that many children and adolescents suffer lasting repercussions after the armed
conflict has ended, including physical injuries, psychological trauma, the loss
of relatives, the breakdown of the family unit, geographical
displacement--whether internal or international, and disruption of their
THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
To the States
repeal any laws or regulations that permit conscription or voluntary enlistment
of adolescents under the minimum age allowed by international instruments, and
to urge them to sign and eventually ratify the Draft Additional Protocol to the
Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the Working Group of the UN
Commission of Human Rights forbidding the recruitment of minors of 18 years to
participate in armed conflicts.
take severe legislative, judicial, or other measures to identify, prosecute, and
punish state agents or civilians who carry out, authorize, assist in, or
facilitate the recruitment of minors or their use in armed conflicts;
cooperate, as appropriate, with international organizations in their efforts to
prosecute those who commit this international crime for criminal liability;
establish special policies, mechanisms, and institutions for the recovery,
reeducation, and social rehabilitation of children and youths who have
participated in armed organizations, whether state or nongovernmental;
establish mechanisms for educating the public and raising its awareness, through
state and nongovernmental organizations, about the prohibition on the use of
minors in war and dangerous activities; on the criminal consequences of such
practices; and on the impact of such activities on the lives of young people now
and in the future.
establish policies for redressing damage to children and adolescents wounded or
disabled by armed conflicts, indemnifying them, and providing them with proper
physical and psychological care and remedial education.
establish mechanisms to compensate for the negative effects of armed conflicts
on children and adolescents from refugee or internally displaced families.
To the parties involved in armed conflicts (States, paramilitary groups,
and armed dissident groups):
observe, implement, and enforce, through their command and supervision
structures, humanitarian and international law on the rights of children,
committing themselves to and implementing strong measures that prohibit within
their ranks the use of minors in any war activity, including information,
tactical or logistical support, or surveillance activities, and that prohibit
any of their members from recruiting, using, or tacitly accepting any such use
To refrain from any form of violence, pressure, or compensation designed
to persuade families to facilitate access to or surrender their minor children
for participation in armed or war activities.
release all their under-age members from any obligation and facilitate the
reintegration of such minors into family and social life.
To each child and youth:
Know that you have the right and the obligation not to participate in activities related to armed conflict, regardless of who may order or attempt to convince or force you to do so.
 Sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of
Uruguay and the Coalition to Prevent the Use of Children in Armed Conflicts,
and organized by the Inter-American Children’s Institute (OAS).
 Unanimously adopted at the International Labour
Conference, June 1999.
 Annual Report of the ILO, July 1999.