June 16, 2010
U.N. Voices Concern on Child Soldiers in Somalia
The United Nations lists the Somali government as one of the “most persistent violators” in the world of using child soldiers, and this week The New York Times documented several child soldiers, some as young as 12, toting assault rifles and working for the Somali transitional government in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.
While the American government has expressed concern about the matter, it has given the Somali military millions of dollars in arms and paid soldiers’ salaries. On Wednesday, Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said that assistance might violate the Child Soldier Prevention provision of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008; the Durbin-Coburn Child Soldiers Accountability Act; and the Durbin-Coburn Human Rights Enforcement Act.
“I recognize that the Somali Transitional Federal Government is trying to bring some measure of stability to that war-torn country,” he wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton dated June 16. “However, it should not do so on the backs of its precious children, and certainly not with the help of the American taxpayer.”
Carolyn Vadino, a State Department spokeswoman, said, “We continually press the Transitional Federal Government to make certain that they do not use child soldiers.” She also said the American government took “appropriate steps” to verify that the Somali soldiers it was helping pay were 18 or older.
Few young people in
On Wednesday, the Security Council held a long-scheduled meeting on child soldiers and issued a presidential statement expressing its “readiness to adopt targeted and graduated” sanctions against commanders who deploy under-age combatants.
“This is the first step,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, the United Nations’ special representative for children and armed conflict, said by telephone from
Measures are already in place in a limited number of conflicts, as in the Democratic
Several international treaties cover the issue. While the American government has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which presses countries not to deploy soldiers younger than 15, the American government has ratified an optional protocol to that convention eschewing the recruitment and the use of child soldiers.
Also on Wednesday,
He said “the Somali government has not and will not knowingly recruit under-aged youth for the national security forces,” and the “president also instructed the army to demobilize any under-age recruits without delay.”
Neil MacFarquhar contributed reporting from the United Nations.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs