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Child Soldier Accountability

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In the last decade, progress has been made in establishing criminal responsibility for the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The Child Soldier Accountability Act is a positive next step as it would enable the US to prosecute military commanders who recruit or use child soldiers under the age of 15, whether committed here or abroad by either US citizens or non-citizens present in the United States.
Human Rights Watch has investigated the recruitment and use of children as soldiers in over a dozen countries since 1994. We have documented the recruitment of children as young as eight into both paramilitary and guerilla forces in Colombia, the kidnapping of children by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda, including the use of girls
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Here in the United States, the Federal Criminal Code currently does not address the issue of child recruitment, nor does it allow prosecution of an individual who has recruited or used child soldiers in another country and then attempts to take safe haven in this country.
The Child Soldier Accountability Act would address this gap. It would make it a federal crime to recruit or use child soldiers under the age of 15, and allow the prosecution of individuals for this crime, whether committed here or abroad by either US citizens or non-citizens present in the United States. The bill imposes penalties of up to 20 years to life in prison, and also allows the US to deport or deny entry to individuals who have recruited children as soldiers. The adoption of this legislation would provide an important avenue to hold these perpetrators
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For example, Chapter 113c of Title 18, the Crimes and Criminal Procedure of the US Code makes it a crime for torture to be committed abroad irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender where the alleged offender is present in the US. The provision imposes severe criminal penalties on “whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture.” Jurisdiction over this crime applies whether the alleged offender is a national of the United States, or is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender. (Sec. 2340A.) The first person to be charged under this law, Charles “Chuckie” Taylor, Jr., son of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, was indicted in December 2006 and is currently facing trial in Miami.
Another precedent, Mr. Chairman, is the Genocide Accountability Act, which was signed into law on December 21, 2007. This act, which Human Rights Watch supported, amends the Genocide Convention Implementation Act to allow prosecution of non-US nationals who are in the US for acts of genocide committed outside the United States.
Mr. Chairman, we were very encouraged to see the Child Soldier Accountability Act adopted unanimously by the US Senate in December 2007. We believe this demonstrates the broad, bi-partisan concern regarding the global scourge of child recruitment, and the desire by members of both parties to effectively
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