Spindelegger: “We must continue to fight against the abuse of child soldiers!” /Austrian Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger on Red Hand Day

VIENNA, Austria, February 21, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child came into force ten years ago, on 12 February 2002. Since then, 144 states have agreed to impose penalties on the involvement of child soldiers in their countries.

“We are far from having won the world-wide fight against the recruiting of child soldiers. According to some estimates, 300,000 minors are currently still being used as soldiers. This cruel crime must be prosecuted and penalties must be imposed. Dictators and rebel leaders must understand that the international community is not prepared to accept such severe violations of human rights”, Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said on Red Hand Day.

The developments of the most recent years do, however, give reason for hope. At the Special Court for Sierra Leone – with the highly experienced Austrian judge Renate Winter as a member of the Appeals Chamber – numerous cases of recruitment of children for armed groups during the bloody civil war are now being investigated. The first judgment of the International Criminal Court in Den Haag on the recruitment of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo is expected to be given soon.

“A major challenge is the re-integration of former child soldiers into society. Most of the children are not only scarred for life but are often also excluded from their societies”, Spindelegger continued. “Austria has supported the UN work on re-integrating former child soldiers for many years and also promotes projects of this kind within the framework of the Austrian Development Cooperation.”

“The tenth anniversary of the Optional Protocol coming into effect should be an impetus for all of us – for states, international organisations and the civil society – to intensify or fight against the recruitment of child soldiers. In the years 2009 and 2010 Austria was deeply involved in taking ground-breaking steps in this direction in the UN Security Council. We will continue our efforts at all levels, especially at the level of the UN Security Council”, the Vice Chancellor concluded.

SOURCE 

Austria – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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