[JURIST] Leaders of both Philippine rebel groups and government militias could be held responsible for the use of child soldiers [GSCR backgrounder] under a new US law, according to a Wednesday statement [AP report] by Human Rights Watch [advocacy website]. The Child Soldiers Accountability Act of 2008 [text], signed into law [press release] by US President George W. Bush on Friday, provides for up to 20 years in prison for anyone found guilty of the recruitment or use of soldiers under the age of 15, and for up to life in prison if that use is associated with the death of a child. It also allows for the deportation or exclusion of that person from the US, gives the country jurisdiction over them if they are found present in the US, and provides for associated attempt and conspiracy crimes. Leaders for one of the rebel groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) [BBC backgrounder] have both denied using child soldiers [ABC report], and have said that the US law has does not affect them. In September, the Philippine government reported finding video recording of MILF rebels training minors [Mindanao Examiner report], and President Gloria Arroyo has planned to file a complaint [GMA report] against the group before the United Nations.
Earlier this week, a Ugandan newspaper report said that it was that senior officers in the Ugandan military [official website] could similarly be held responsible [JURIST report] for the use of child soldiers under the US law. In January, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a report [text] pushing for the enforcement of sanctions against 13 countries where groups or governments continue to use child soldiers [JURIST news archive] in armed combat. According to the report, child soldiers continue to be used in Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Myanmar, Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Colombia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Uganda in violation of international laws that protect children in armed conflict. Ban noted that the use of child soldiers violates in particular the Geneva Convention of 1949 and its 1997 protocols, the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 and its optional protocol, and the International Labour Organization Convention No. 182 [texts].