Practice Relating to Rule 136. Recruitment of Child Soldiers
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 enlistment … while under the age of fifteen”.
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:
It is prohibited by statute for any person younger than 17 years of age to be recruited into the Armed forces. Section 33(1) of the Defence Act 1990 was amended in 2001 and states: “No person who is under 17 years may be appointed to, or enlisted or engaged in, the Navy, the Army or the Air Force”.
In 2009, in a statement before the UN Security Council, New Zealand’s permanent representative stated:
We thank the Secretary-General for his latest report … [concerning] Children and Armed Conflict.
[A]s we speak … children are being handed guns and told to fight …
Member States, the various organs of the United Nations, and this Security Council have a vital role to play to protect these children …
New Zealand welcomes … the fact that child protection enjoys a high profile on this Council’s agenda.
… While we welcome their highlighted listing in the Secretary-General’s latest report, it’s distressing that there are still 16 parties who, for at least five years, have recruited, killed, maimed, raped or sexually violated children.
These parties are ignoring international law, ignoring this Council’s resolutions, presidential statements and conclusions, and more needs to be done to hold them accountable.
In line with the Secretary-General’s recommendations, we encourage this Council to include child recruitment and use in the mandate of its sanctions committees; to ensure the SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary General] is asked to brief those committees more regularly; and to prioritise persistent violators on its agenda.
And we encourage the Council to refer persistent violators to existing sanctions committees, and to consider other, targeted measures where no sanctions committee exists.