The UN envoy for Children and Armed Conflict [official website] on Monday urged [press release] all nations to ratify a treaty protocol that would criminalize recruitment of child soldiers and set the minimum age of recruitment at 18. The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict of the Convention on the Rights of the Child [text] seeks to prevent children from taking part in conflicts. In a statement timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Optional Protocol, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy, pleaded that all states must ratify the Protocol: "Every country, big or small, with or without a standing army, at peace or in conflict, has a role to play in abolishing the inhumane practice of recruiting and using children in war." The treaty protocol has already been ratified by about three quarters of UN member states and needs ratification in an additional 49 states to make the protocol universal.
The problem of recruitment of child soldiers [JURIST news archives] is ongoing in many nations. In 2006, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] formally charged [JURIST report] Thomas Lubanga, founder of the militant Union of Patriotic Congolese, accusing him of enlisting child soldiers in the violence-plagued Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). His trial began in January 2009 after being delayed for evidentiary reasons and was halted soon after when one of the child witnesses recanted his testimony [JURIST reports] that Lubanga had recruited him for the militia. In August of last year, the ICC concluded [JURIST report] Lubanga's trial after two years. A verdict is expected in the case early this year.