Practice Relating to Rule 136. Recruitment of Child Soldiers
Iraq’s Law of the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (2005) identifies “[c]onscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years” as a serious violation of the laws and customs of war applicable in both international and non-international armed conflicts.
In 2012, Iraq’s Ministry of Human Rights issued a press release entitled “The [D]eputy [M]inister of human rights for studies affairs heads the special committee related to children[’s] involvement in armed conflicts”, which stated:
[T]he [D]eputy [M]inister of human rights for studies affairs had chaired the meeting of the committee specialized in children[’s] involvement in armed conflicts on Wednesday the 8th of February 2012. … The meeting discussed [the] banning of children[’s] involvement in armed conflicts.
In 2012, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Iraq stated:
9. … [Iraq] acceded to the  Optional Protocol [on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict] to the  Convention [on the Rights of the Child] without reservations on 24 June 2008 and attached a declaration to its accession, pursuant to article 3 (2) of the Protocol, in which it indicated that the Government of the Republic of Iraq:
(a) Declares that the minimum age at which it permits voluntary recruitment into its national armed forces is 18 years;
(b) Sets forth below a description of the safeguards it has adopted to ensure that such recruitment is not forced or coerced:
- Volunteers must present reliable proof of age prior to acceptance into the national armed forces.
19. Pursuant to Coalition Provisional Authority Order No. 2 of 23 May 2003, the former Iraqi army was dissolved, as were a number of other entities, and all persons employed in the army were released. In addition, Coalition Provisional Authority Order No. 22 of 7 August 2003 creating a New Iraqi Army (national defence force) was issued; section 6 of Order No. 22 provides that the minimum age for enlistment into the New Iraqi Army is 18 years and that military service is voluntary. Compulsory service in the New Iraqi Army was suspended with effect from 9 April 2003.
20. The minimum age for voluntary recruitment is 18 years; applicants are required to present reliable proof of age prior to acceptance, in accordance with the declaration made by Iraq upon its accession to the Optional Protocol. Article 30 of the Military Service and Retirement Act No. 3 of 2010 provides that: “Applications for voluntary military service shall be accepted under a volunteer contract, provided that the applicant:
2. Is not below 18 years of age …
21. Article 1 of the Act provides that:
“The provisions of this Act apply to:
1. Officers from the rank of second lieutenant and above;
2. Students at military colleges, army academies and schools;
3. Army imams;
4. Volunteers, from the rank of soldier and above;
5. For the purposes of this Act, “soldier” means any person who is a member of the Iraqi armed forces and is pursuing a career in military service, whether as an officer, as a volunteer or as a student at a military college, military school, army vocational training centre or military establishment. Consequently, no volunteer under the age of 18 years may be accepted at a military school.”
22. Article 8 of the Regional Guard Force of Kurdistan (Peshmerga) Service and Retirement Act provides that the minimum age for volunteers is 18 years …
23. Under article 66 of the Iraqi Military Criminal Code (Act No. 19 of 2007): “Anyone who drafts or submits a false report, statement or other official document in connection with service or employment or any person of any rank whatsoever who is knowingly an intermediary to such an act shall be liable to imprisonment.” Thus the penalty for falsifying the documents of a minor for the purpose of his enlistment in the army is punishable under article 66 of the Act, as well as under the Iraqi Criminal Code (Act No. 111 of 1969).
24. Article 13 (2) (z) of the Iraqi High Tribunal Act No. 10 of 2005, establishes the conscription or enlistment of children under the age of 15 years into the national armed forces or their use as active participants in hostilities  as a war crime. Moreover, article 13 (4) (g) establishes the conscription or enlistment of children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups or their use as active participants in hostilities as a war crime. Although these offences are punishable under the Act, it is applicable only to offences committed from 17 July 1968 to 1 May 2003 and not to those committed subsequently.
25. While the Government of Iraq endeavours to fulfil its obligations in respect of international human rights law, there is no provision in the national legal system establishing the involvement of children in armed conflict as an offence or prescribing a penalty for doing so. A code on the rights of the child is being drafted that will include the relevant legal provisions, including those on child protection established under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Protocols thereto and under international humanitarian law. The drafting committee for this report will raise this important point in the context of national debates relating to the finalization of the report by Iraqi government bodies. The Ministry of Human Rights, using its legislative authority to draft human rights legislation, will introduce a number of ideas and bills concerning the provision of appropriate protection to prevent the involvement of children in armed conflict. Meanwhile, the Child Welfare Authority within the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is drafting a child protection strategy for Iraq. The current child protection strategy entered into force in 2009; currently, the Child Welfare Authority is formulating a child protection strategy that includes armed conflict.
39. Reference was made at the beginning of the report to the prohibition against the recruitment of children to the Iraqi armed forces and against the recruitment of children by any armed group. Iraqi legislation is in conformity with the Convention and the Optional Protocols thereto and seeks to protect children from all forms of exploitation, including involvement in armed conflict. Conscription has been suspended and therefore merits no further discussion at present.
40. It should be noted that the Government of the Republic of Iraq ratified the Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts pursuant to Act No. 85 of 2001. Moreover, Iraq acceded to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention 1999 (No. 182) on 9 July 2001.