Under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court the recruitment of soldiers under the age of 15 is considered a war crime. The governments of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda have all ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict setting the minimum voluntary recruitment age as 18.
Despite this, widespread use of child soldiers continues. The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, of which Amnesty International is a member, has estimated that tens of thousands of children are used as soldiers in DRC, some of them are as young as seven when recruited into armed groups.
Torture and Ill-treatment of Child SoldiersBoys and girls are used as soldiers to fight on the front line, as porters, messengers, guards or cooks. They are often seized and forcibly recruited by government forces, armed opposition groups and foreign forces, and are sent to military camps in preparation for armed combat.
Conditions in the camps tend to be hard; and the children are often beaten, raped, tortured and deprived of food and sleep. In all parts of the country, former child soldiers are held in detention having been accused of desertion. They can be held in detention for months or years, and face closed and unfair trials before military courts, with no legal representation. Some have been sentenced to death
We oppose the voluntary or compulsory military recruitment of persons below 18 years of age and we call for the demobilisation of all child soldiers. It is also fundamental that they receive appropriate help with their physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration.