Practice Relating to Rule 136. Recruitment of Child Soldiers
Ireland’s Geneva Conventions Act (1962), as amended in 1998, provides that any “minor breach” of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including violations of Article 50 of the Geneva Convention IV, and of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, including violations of Article 77(2), as well as any “contravention” of the 1977 Additional Protocol II, including violations of Article 4(3)(c), are punishable offences.
In 2006, 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, Ireland stated:
13. Under Defence Forces Regulations and Administrative Instructions, the minimum age for “general service enlistment” to all branches of the Irish Defence Forces is 17 years of age. …
14. There is one exception to the legal minimum age of 17 provided for in military regulations. These regulations currently allow for the legal recruitment of “apprentices” who may be recruited specifically as apprentices from the age of 16 onwards. … Thus any apprentice recruit aged 16 at entry would be between 19 to 20 by the time they qualified in their technical/technological specialty. Apprentices are not assigned to any military duties at all until they have fully completed their specialist technical/technological training.
In 2009, Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, in a written response to a question on the situation in Sri Lanka, stated: “I believe that an independent review should consider the allegations of serious breaches of international humanitarian law in the course of the conflict, including … the forced conscription of … children into LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] units.”