Both the government of Chad and the FUC are in violation of international law that prohibits the recruitment and use of children as soldiers. The government is also in violation of Article 77 of Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, which guarantees that children who commit a crime related to an armed conflict shall be held separately from adults.
Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which applies during non-international armed conflicts, prohibits states and non-state armed groups from recruiting or using children under the age of 15 in armed conflict. This standard is also reflected in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which Chad ratified in 1990.113 The prohibition on the recruitment and use of children below the age of 15 is now considered customary international law, and is binding on all parties to armed conflict.
Under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), adopted in July 1998, the recruitment of children under the age of 15 or their use in hostilities is considered a war crime, whether carried out by members of national armed forces or non-state armed groups.114 The Rome Statute entered into force for Chad on January 1, 2007. Chad therefore has an obligation to investigate and prosecute members of its forces and other armed groups if they engage in recruitment and use of children under the age of 15 as soldiers.
Chad is a party to the First Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict,115 which establishes 18 as the minimum age for direct participation in hostilities, for compulsory recruitment, and for any recruitment or use in hostilities by irregular armed groups.116 The protocol, which was ratified by Chad in 2002, also places obligations upon non-state armed forces. Article 4 states that armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a state should not, under any circumstances, recruit or use in hostilities persons under the age of eighteen.117 It also places obligations on the state to take all feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and use, including the adoption of legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalize such practices.118
The Optional Protocol requires governments to deposit a binding declaration establishing their minimum voluntary recruitment age, which cannot be below 16. In the case of Chad, the Chadian government has established a minimum age of 18.119
The Optional Protocol also obligates states parties to demobilize children within their jurisdiction who have been recruited or used in hostilities in violation of the protocol, and to provide assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration.120
Chad is also a party to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, in which states pledge to take all necessary measures to ensure that no child takes part in hostilities and to refrain from recruiting children. The charter defines a child as every human being below the age of 18. It further states that Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure the care and protection of children who are affected by armed conflicts.121
International humanitarian law prohibits all parties to armed conflicts from arbitrarily depriving any person of their liberty, including through abductions and forced recruitment. Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and applicable to non-international armed conflicts requires that all civilians be treated humanelyarbitrary deprivation of liberty is incompatible with this requirement.122
In 1999 the member states of the International Labour Organization (ILO) unanimously adopted the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182). It defines a child as any person under the age of 18 and includes in its definition of the worst forms of child labor all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.123
Chad ratified the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention on November 6, 2000.124
The convention obliges the Chadian government to take immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of labour as a matter of urgency.125 Under the Convention, the government is required to take measures to prevent the engagement of children in the worst forms of child labor, remove them from these circumstances, and assist their rehabilitation and social reintegration.126 Recommendation 190 accompanying Convention No. 182 encourages states to make recruitment of children under the age of 18 a criminal offense.127
113 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted November 20, 1989, G.A. Res. 44/25, annex, 44 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 167, U.N. Doc. A/44/49 (1989), entered into force September 2, 1990, ratified by Chad October 2, 1990.
114 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.183/9, July 17, 1998, entered into force July 1, 2002, arts. 8(2)(b)(xxvi) and 8(2)(e)(vii), ratified by Chad November 1, 2006.
115 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, adopted May 25, 2000, G.A. Res. 54/263, Annex I, 54 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 7, U.N. Doc. A/54/49, Vol. III (2000), entered into force February 12, 2002, ratified by Chad August 28, 2002.
116 Ibid., art. 4.
117 Ibid., art. 4.
118 Ibid ., art. 4.
119 Pursuant to article 3, paragraph 2 of the Optional Protocol, the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces is 18 years. Enlistment is entirely and absolutely voluntary and may take place only on a fully informed basis. See Chad: CRC Optional Protocol (Armed Conflict) Reservations and Declarations, http://www.bayefsky.com/./html/chad_t2_crc_opt1.php (accessed June 6, 2007).
120 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, art. 6(3).
121 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/24.9/49 (1990), entered into force November 29, 1999, ratified by Chad March 30, 2000, art. 22.
122 See 1949 Geneva Conventions, article 3; see also International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Customary International Humanitarian Law (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005), rule 99 and accompanying text.
123 ILO Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention), adopted June 17, 1999, 38 I.L.M. 1207 (entered into force November 19, 2000).
124 See http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/cgi-lex/ratifce.pl?C182 for a list of ratifications of ILO Convention No. 182 (accessed June 6, 2007).
125 ILO Convention No. 182, art. 1.
126 Ibid., arts. 6, 7a, 7b.
127 ILO Recommendation concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, June 17, 1999, ILO No. R190, art. 12.