Practice Relating to Rule 137. Participation of Child Soldiers in Hostilities
New Zealand’s Military Manual (1992) provides, with respect to non-international armed conflicts in particular, that children “are to receive such aid and protection as they require, including … a ban on their … participation in the hostilities while under the age of fifteen”. Referring to Article 4(3) of the 1977 Additional Protocol II, it adds: “Children under the age of fifteen who do in fact take part in hostilities remain protected by the Article.”
Under New Zealand’s International Crimes and ICC Act (2000), war crimes include the crimes defined in Article 8(2)(b)(xxvi) and (e)(vii) of the 1998 ICC Statute.
In 2008, in its combined third and fourth periodic reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, New Zealand stated:
478. The Defence Force Orders for Personnel Administration (DFO 4) have been amended to expressly prohibit active service, both within and outside New Zealand, by members of the Armed Forces who are under the age of 18 years. Specifically, paragraph 2.11 of DFO 4 states:
Service members are not to be posted on active service unless they have reached the age of 18 years. In addition, Service members under 18 years of age are not to be posted on operational service outside New Zealand.
479. In addition, section 37 of the Defence Act 1990 has been amended by deleting the word “overseas” from the heading and now states that no person serving in the Armed Forces who is under 18 years is liable for active service.
480. The effect of these amendments is to ensure that members of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) who have not reached the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in any hostilities, irrespective of whether the deployment meets the definition of active service or not.