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UN: Rights Group Welcomes Move On Child Soldiers

Munich, 2 November 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The international organization Human Rights Watch has welcomed a new United Nations policy establishing age limits for soldiers and civilians participating in UN peacekeeping activities.

A spokesman (unnamed) at the organization's European headquarters in Brussels (Oct. 30) described the new policy as a step in the campaign to end the use of child soldiers by some governments. Experts estimate that as many as 300,000 children under 18 years old are fighting in armed conflicts around the world.

The spokesman said: "No one under the age of 18 should take part in war, whether as part of a national army, an armed opposition group, or a member of a UN peacekeeping mission."

Earlier last week, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Bernard Miyet announced that governments have been asked not to send military observers and civilian police younger than 25 years old on peacekeeping missions. Miyet also said that in some circumstances peacekeeping troops should be at least 21, and in all cases not younger than 18.

For the past several years, Human Rights Watch and other international organizations have been campaigning for an agreement to raise the minimum age for military recruitment and participation in armed conflict from 15 to 18. A UN working group has been negotiating on the same issue for four years, but without reaching any agreement.