Practice Relating to Rule 137. Participation of Child Soldiers in Hostilities
In 2001, upon ratification of the 2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Viet Nam made the following declaration:
To defend the Homeland is the sacred duty and right of all citizens. Citizens have the obligation to fulfil military service and participate in building the all-people national defense.
Under the law of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, only male citizens at the age of 18 and over shall be recruited in the military service. Those who are under the age of 18 shall not be directly involved in military battles unless there is an urgent need for safeguarding national independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.
In 2005, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the 2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Viet Nam stated: “The right of children under eighteen not to … be directly involved in war … is strictly enforced.”
Viet Nam’s report concluded with the following statement: “citizens under eighteen do not participate directly in war battles except in cases of protecting the country’s independence, sovereignty, unity and integrity”.
Subsequently, the Committee on the Rights of the Child asked Viet Nam to clarify the information contained in that concluding statement.
In its response to that request, Viet Nam stated:
Para 59 of the National Report says, “Citizens under 18 do not participate directly in war battles except in cases of protecting the country’s independence, sovereignty, unity and integrity”. This is the reality of Vietnam during the two wars for national liberation and defense, namely the resistance war against the French 1946–1954 and the war against Americans in South Vietnam until 1972. There were youths and children who volunteered to participate in fighting these enemies in local areas to defend their homeland, families and themselves. This is the legitimate right of defense of each people when his or her life is at danger at any time.
In 2015, in a statement before the UN Security Council during an open debate on children and armed conflict, made on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the permanent representative of Viet Nam stated:
We appreciate the work done by UN bodies and concerned agencies in armed conflict, particularly in monitoring and reporting on grave violations against children, incorporating child protection policies in peacekeeping operations, and promoting the implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs.
And we welcome the progress made by the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign, which was launched last year with an aim [of] ending and prevent[ing] the recruitment and use of children by the national security forces by 2016.
ASEAN, however, remains deeply concerned about the fact that growing number[s] of children continue to be affected by grave violations in armed conflicts, including killing and sexual violence. … It is all the more alarming as we are witnessing the rise of complex and well-organised non-state armed groups that have total disregard for international law, especially in certain regions in the Middle East and Africa.
We urge States, United Nations entities with their respective mandates, relevant international and regional organizations and other stakeholders to redouble their efforts to address, with added vigour, these new challenges posed by violent non-state armed groups.