Child Soldier Prevention and Accountability: The First Step in a Domestic Response to a Global Issue

 

          Amanda Sherman, Staff Writer

         Ishmael Beah was eleven years old when the war in Sierra Leon began.1  When the war finally reached his town, he was separated from his family members and left to wander from town to town with a few of his friends, in search of safety.2  After hearing news that his family members had been killed, Ishmael and his friends arrived at a village occupied by the Sierra Leonean Army.3  When Ishmael was thirteen, the soldiers declared their intent to recruit more able bodies because they had lost so many men.4  Ishmael and his friends were told they must join the army or be killed.5  Ishmael recalls:

My squad had boys who were as young as 7 . . . . I couldn’t shoot my gun at first.  But as I lay there watching my friends getting killed . . . I began shooting. Something inside me shifted and I lost compassion for anyone. After that day, killing became as easy as drinking water. I had lost all sense of remorse.6

           Ishmael’s story is the story of many young boys and girls worldwide.7  The military recruitment of children under eighteen years of age and their use in hostilities is taking place in at least eighty-six countries and territories around the world.8  By the end of 2007, seventeen armed conflicts directly involved children, which is a significant decrease from the twenty seven armed conflicts directly involving children in 2004.9  In its 2008 report, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers stated its belief that this decrease was most likely due to wars ending rather than to any specific efforts to decrease child involvement in armed conflicts.10  There are many different reasons for the proliferation of children as soldiers; however, “[T]he underlying causes of the rise of child soldiers include such overarching problems as world poverty, the lack of economic and educational opportunity for many of the world’s youth, and the spread of war and disease.”11 

      On April 24, 2007, the newly formed Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate held the first congressional hearing on child soldiers.12  The hearing resulted in the enactment of three pieces of legislation, including the Child Soldier Accountability Act of 2008 and the Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2008, which most directly deal with the issue of child soldiering.13  Continue reading “Child Soldier Prevention and Accountability: The First Step in a Domestic Response to a Global Issue”