• 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.
  • A 14-year-old fighter in a Free Syrian Army brigade takes position inside a house in Deir al-Zor, a city in eastern Syria, in July 2013.
    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.

Reports

Child Soldiers

  • May 12, 2015
  • May 12, 2015
    The Houthi armed group in Yemen has intensified its recruitment, training, and deployment of children in violation of international law. Since September 2014, when the Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah, took control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, they have increasingly used children as scouts, guards, runners, and fighters, with some children being wounded and killed.
  • May 8, 2015
    When Omar Khadr first arrived at Guantanamo Bay in 2002, he was a baby-faced 15-year-old and one of the military prison’s youngest detainees. He had been severely wounded in a firefight in Afghanistan in which a U.S. army medic was killed and other U.S. soldiers injured. The incident began a 13-year ordeal marked by repeated interrogations, torture, alleged threats of rape, and a plea bargain with a fundamentally flawed military commission.
  • Mar 26, 2015
    Attacks by the Islamist armed group Boko Haram killed more than 1,000 civilians in 2015, based on witness accounts and an analysis of media reports. Boko Haram fighters have deliberately attacked villages and committed mass killings and abductions as their attacks have spread from northeast Nigeria into Cameroon, Chad, and Niger since February.
  • Feb 16, 2015
  • Jan 9, 2015
    The United States, Uganda, and the Central African Republic should ensure the prompt transfer of a rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander to the International Criminal Court (ICC). In 2005, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Dominic Ongwen for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
  • Jan 9, 2015
    On January 6, 2015, US military advisers supporting the African Union Regional Task Force in the Central African Republic received the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen into custody. The United States, Uganda – the primary contributor to the AU task force – and the Central African Republic should ensure the prompt transfer of Ongwen, believed to be about 34 years old, to the International Criminal Court (ICC). In 2005, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Ongwen for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
  • Nov 18, 2014
    On Nov. 20 25 years ago, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but we still aren’t doing enough to protect the youngest among us.
  • Nov 17, 2014

    The Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international treaty adopted by the United Nations on November 20, 1989, establishing global standards to ensure the protection, survival, and development of all children, without discrimination. Countries that ratify the treaty pledge to protect children from economic and sexual exploitation, violence, and other forms of abuse and to advance the rights of children to education, health care, and a decent standard of living. The convention also addresses children’s rights to a name and nationality, to be heard, to be fairly treated when accused of offenses, when deprived of parental care, and other rights.

  • Oct 3, 2014
    President Obama has the clout to get child soldiers off the battlefields in countries around the world. But he has been too reluctant to use it. As the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30, he gave some countries a pass to get U.S. military aid—in some cases millions of dollars – that he should have held back until they change their ways.