U.N. Protocol Against Child-Soldiers Comes into Force

GENEVA, FEB. 13, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The U.N. Protocol Prohibiting Child-Soldiers, an initiative strongly supported by John Paul II, has come into force.

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In this connection, a ceremony was held in a Geneva park on Tuesday to remind the public that 300,000 children are still used in armed conflicts worldwide.

Thanks to the ratification of 14 countries (10 were sufficient for the protocol to take effect), the treaty, adopted on May 25, 2000, by the General Assembly and signed by 96 countries, is no longer optional.

The United States and Great Britain signed the agreement, which limits the age for the recruitment of volunteers.

The protocol, also given vocal backing by rebel groups, prohibits those under 18 from taking part in armed conflicts, and from being conscripted, or forcibly recruited. States must establish the minimum age of 16 for voluntary recruitment for regular armies. Rebel militias must set a minimum age of 18.

U.N. estimates suggest that over the past decade, 2 million children died in armed conflicts, a million were orphaned, and more than 6 million suffered permanent handicaps.

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