UK’s Child Soldiers

Sekhar Roy.


Amnesty International has exposed the most inhuman and degraded defence system of United Kingdom. The human rights body in a press note released from London criticized the Blair Government for undermining the Optional Protocol to the Contention on the Rights of the Child signed last September. The Convention states that the recruitment and participation in hostilities of anyone below the age of 18 could ultimately jeopardise their mental and physical integrity. The Rights body held UK responsible as ‘it is the only country in Europe which routinely sends children under the age of 18 into armed conflict’.


Amnesty warned that recruitment and deployment of children under 18 into the country’s defence forces can lead to great risks including death, injuries, bullying and being traumatized. The country, which often remains critical of the child labour policy of economically weaker countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America and lends supports to its closed ally, the United States in imposing various trade embargoes against these countries, is now caught in its own net.


Under-18s were deployed to the Adriatic Sea and in Kosovo crisis. The newsmen found a 17 year old tank driver in Macedonia. To keep the British pride at high (a stupidity indeed !). another 17 year boy, Jason Burt had to



be killed in Falklands war while serving a in the Parachute Regiment. Burt’s parents repented that their son had fallen in the death trap laid by the country’s child-lifters (hinting the UK’s defence establishment).


Recruitment of under-18s into the armed forces of UK has registered a sharp increase. In 1998, altogether 9,466 under 18s were recruited which represented a third of the total intake. The number is likely to go up in the last fiscal year since Tony Blair Government did not find anything wrong in it. Amnesty’s fact finding team found that the country’s defence ministry recorded the deaths of 12 under-18s during vigorous training schems between 1992-1999. 407 injury incidents involving these boy-soldiers were recorded between 1996 and 1999.


A Court Martial in Aldershot, Hampshire, heard in 1999 the case of five army instructors accused of having ill-treated some teenage recruits. All aged 18 or under. A mother who had written to the Government in 1997 regarding deteriorating health condition of her son who has been deployed with the Queen’s own Highlanders during the Gulf war when he was only 17 and who returned ‘‘totally broken’’. Her mother felt cheated as it was unbelievable that her teenage boy would be sent to Gulf War. Independent political analyst in London comments that the English families have a good sympathy on the issue raised by the Amnesty. He keeps his finger crossed whether the issue will not create trouble for the ruling labour party in the next general election unless the policy is reversed.


A I, London