Twelve years ago, the BBC reported that the British Army was being urged by the United Nations to stop sending young soldiers into war.
Following Symon Hill’s work seen in The Friend and the Ekklesia website, and the Nato Watch article, an article by Michael Bartlet, Parliamentary Liaison Secretary for Quakers in Britain, has pointed out that “with the exception of Russia, and apprentices in Ireland, the British Army is unique in Europe in recruiting at the age of 16. Of 14,185 recruits into the army last year, 3,630 or over 25%, joined under the age of 18.
“Those who join the army at this age are required to make a longer commitment than those joining as adults. Sixteen year olds joining the army are required to serve for six years, while 18 year olds commit themselves to four years. After a six month ‘cooling-off’ period there is no right to leave. While ‘unhappy minors’ may leave at the discretion of their commanding officer, the fact that there is no discharge as of right leaves them uniquely open to bullying.
“The current regime in the army is unlike any other apprenticeship. A breach of army discipline may lead to a criminal prosecution. Those joining the army at the age of 16 often come from the poorest and least educated backgrounds. Some have reading ages of a child of half that age. They lack the confidence to seek a change in their career in the same way as those training for professions.”
He recommends that: “By setting the age of enlistment at 18 the UK government would ensure both a consistent attitude to the age of adult responsibility and follow best practice in the European Union. It would enable the UK government to implement the recommendations of Parliament`s Joint Committee on Human Rights.”
The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers works to prevent the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, to secure their demobilisation and to ensure their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.