• Thousands of children are serving as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. These boys and girls, some as as young as 8-years-old, serve in government forces and armed opposition groups. They may fight on the front lines, participate in suicide missions, and act as spies, messengers, or lookouts. Girls may be forced into sexual slavery. Many are abducted or recruited by force, while others join out of desperation, believing that armed groups offer their best chance for survival. We are working to prevent the use of child soldiers and to hold accountable the people who send children to fight.
  • Lubanga in the courtroom at the International Criminal Court.

    The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) guilty verdict against rebel leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo for recruiting and using child soldiers in hostilities is a first step in bringing justice to the tens of thousands of children forced to fight in conflicts, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and elsewhere. The verdict highlights the need to urgently arrest Lubanga’s co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda, who is currently a general in the Congo army in Goma, eastern Congo, and continues to evade justice.

Reports

Child Soldiers

  • Jul 1, 2014
    All parties implicated in a new United Nations’ report about abuses of children during armed conflict should call an immediate halt to these crimes, Human Rights Watch said today. The UN secretary-general’s annual report on children in armed conflict was released on July 1, 2014.
  • Jun 22, 2014
    Non-state armed groups in Syria have used children as young as 15 to fight in battles, sometimes recruiting them under the guise of offering education, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The groups have used children as young as 14 in support roles. Extremist Islamist groups including the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) have specifically recruited children through free schooling campaigns that include weapons training, and have given them dangerous tasks, including suicide bombing missions.
  • Jun 18, 2014
    Kurdish authorities running three enclaves in northern Syria have committed arbitrary arrests, due process violations, and failed to address unsolved killings and disappearances, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
  • Jun 13, 2014
    The Norwegian government’s leadership to promote international standards to protect schools and universities from military use during armed conflict could spare students and teachers the horrors of war, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack said today. Countries around the globe should work with Norway to support this initiative. Norway’s announcement on June 13, 2014 was contained in its new white paper on global education.
  • Mar 18, 2014
    There was widespread destruction of schools in direct attacks, including air strikes, bombing, shelling and looting, as well as in general fighting and in clashes during protests. Schools and universities were used as barracks, bases and firing positions.
  • Jan 20, 2014
    Since the Seleka rebel coalition seized power in March 2013, the Central African Republic has been in the grip of a grave human rights and humanitarian crisis. Human Rights Watch, since April 2013, has documented widespread burning and pillaging of villages, extrajudicial executions, rape, and the recruitment of children as soldiers by Seleka forces. In August 2013, Christian anti-balaka militia, in an attempt to seize power and retaliate against the predominantly Muslim Seleka, began to target Muslim residents, whom they accused of supporting the Seleka. Human Rights Watch has investigated the cycle of sectarian violence since then.
  • Sep 30, 2013
  • Sep 25, 2013
    Human Rights Watch welcomes the report of the fact-finding mission of the Office of the High Commissioner to the Central African Republic and shares the conclusions that “both the forces of the former Government and the non-State armed group Séléka committed serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law during the conflict.”
  • Jul 2, 2013
    I have spent more than a decade documenting the use of child soldiers in Myanmar, and have interviewed boys who were only 11 when they were forced to join the army. Initially, Myanmar's government flatly denied any use of children by its army, despite evidence that children were systematically recruited in large numbers.
  • Jun 5, 2013
    The Eritrean government remains among the worst human rights violators in the world. The report of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea confirms the patterns of abuses that Human Rights Watch and other independent observers have documented over the past 15 years. As the Rapporteur noted, there is a “blatant disrespect for human rights in Eritrea” that requires “fundamental reform.”