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Monday, 6 November, 2000, 23:21 GMT
Battle over 'child' soldiers
Young Army recruits
Recruits can join the British Army at the age of 16
The UK Government is being urged to stop using "child" soldiers in armed conflict and peacekeeping missions.

The human rights group Amnesty International is also calling for the number of teenagers under 18 recruited into the armed forces to be reduced.

It wants a "cast-iron guarantee" from the government that no under-18 will ever be sent into dangerous situations for the country.

A spokesman said: "The risks to under-18s in the armed forces are so serious that the UK should change its policy from one of relying on school leavers to fill the ranks to one of attracting mature adults into the services."

An Amnesty report says that children are being deployed in armed conflict.

It cites the case of a 17-year-old tank driver who was reported to have been deployed in Macedonia, "ready for battle" during the Kosovo war.

Bullying claims

The group is calling on the government to agree to the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed in September, limiting the deployment of under-18s into combat.

The report, United Kingdom: Under-18s: Child Soldiers at Risk, says there has been a sharp increase in the annual recruitment of under-18s into the armed forces.

Between March 1998 and March 1999 there were almost 10,000 under-18s recruited - more than a third of the total intake, it says.

The study also gives examples of serious bullying and ill-treatment in the armed forces.

These include the case of a 17-year-old rifleman found not guilty of desertion after arguing that he had been systematically bullied by his fellow soldiers and superiors.

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See also:

22 Jan 00 | Europe
Child soldier ban moves closer
18 Oct 99 | UK Politics
UK targeted over 'child soldiers'
20 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Battle commences on forces recruitment
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