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Senate Votes to Ratify Child Soldiers Protocol

Last night by unanimous consent, the US Senate voted to support ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and its companion protocol on the sale of children.

Now that the Senate has formally given its "advice and consent," the last step in the ratification process is for the Bush administration to deposit its instrument of ratification with the United Nations. Since the Bush administration is already on record in support of the two protocols, this should happen shortly.

This is a great milestone for the US Campaign to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers and members should feel very proud of its work over the last four years to reach this goal. Thanks to all members who have helped to educate the public about the protocol, and to secure the support of Congress and the administration.

To date, 109 governments have signed the protocol, and 33 have ratified it.

Below are the understandings and conditions recommended by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding the Protocol, as published in the Congressional Record on June 12.

SECTION 1. ADVICE AND CONSENT TO RATIFICATION OF THE OPTIONAL PROTOCOL TO THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD ON THE INVOLVEMENT OF CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT, SUBJECT TO UNDERSTANDINGS AND CONDITIONS.

The Senate advises and consents to the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children In Armed Conflict, opened for signature at New York on May 25, 2000 (Treaty Doc. 106-37; in this resolution referred to as the ``Protocol''), subject to the understandings in section 2 and the conditions in section 3.

SEC. 2. UNDERSTANDINGS.

The advice and consent of the Senate under section 1 is subject to the
following understandings, which shall be included in the United States
instrument of ratification of the Protocol:

(1) NO ASSUMPTION OF OBLIGATIONS UNDER THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD. --The United States understands that the United States assumes no obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child by becoming a party to the Protocol.

(2) IMPLEMENTATION OF OBLIGATION NOT TO PERMIT CHILDREN TO TAKE DIRECT PART IN HOSTILITIES. --The United States understands that, with respect to Article 1 of the Protocol--

(A) the term ``feasible measures'' means those measures that are practical or practically possible, taking into account all the circumstances ruling at the time, including humanitarian and military considerations;

(B) the phrase ``direct part in hostilities''--

(i) means immediate and actual action on the battlefield likely to cause
harm to the enemy because there is a direct causal relationship between the activity engaged in and the harm done to the enemy; and

(ii) does not mean indirect participation in hostilities, such as gathering and transmitting military information, transporting weapons, munitions, or other supplies, or forward deployment; and

(C) any decision by any military commander, military personnel, or other
person responsible for planning, authorizing, or executing military action,
including the assignment of military personnel, shall only be judged on the
basis of all the relevant circumstances and on the basis of that person's
assessment of the information reasonably available to the person at the
time the person planned, authorized, or executed the action under review, and shall not be judged on the basis of information that comes to light after the action under review was taken.

(3) MINIMUM AGE FOR VOLUNTARY RECRUITMENT. --The United States understands that Article 3 of the Protocol obligates States Parties to the Protocol to raise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into their national armed forces from the current international standard of 15 years of age.

(4) ARMED GROUPS. --The United States understands that the term ``armed groups'' in Article 4 of the Protocol means nongovernmental armed groups such as rebel groups, dissident armed forces, and other insurgent groups.

(5) NO BASIS FOR JURISDICTION BY ANY INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL. --The United States understands that nothing in the Protocol establishes a basis for jurisdiction by any international tribunal, including the International Criminal Court.

SEC. 3. CONDITIONS.

The advice and consent of the Senate under section 1 is subject to the
following conditions:

(1) REQUIREMENT TO DEPOSIT DECLARATION.--The President shall, upon
ratification of the Protocol, deposit a binding declaration under Article
3(2) of the Protocol that states in substance that--

(A) the minimum age at which the United States permits voluntary
recruitment into the Armed Forces of the United States is 17 years of age;

(B) the United States has established safeguards to ensure that such
recruitment is not forced or coerced, including a requirement in section
505(a) of title 10, United States Code, that no person under 18 years of
age may be originally enlisted in the Armed Forces of the United States
without the written consent of the person's parent or guardian, if the
parent or guardian is entitled to the person's custody and control;

(C) each person recruited into the Armed Forces of the United States
receives a comprehensive briefing and must sign an enlistment contract
that, taken together, specify the duties involved in military service; and

(D) all persons recruited into the Armed Forces of the United States must
provide reliable proof of age before their entry into military service.

(2) INTERPRETATION OF THE PROTOCOL. --The Senate reaffirms condition (8) of the resolution of ratification of the Document Agreed Among the States Parties to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) of November 19, 1990 (adopted at Vienna on May 31, 1996), approved by the Senate on May 14, 1997 (relating to condition (1) of the resolution of ratification of the INF Treaty, approved by the Senate on May 27, 1988).

(3) REPORTS. --

(A) INITIAL REPORT. --Not later than 90 days after the deposit of the
United States instrument of ratification, the Secretary of Defense shall
submit to the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate a report describing the measures taken by the military departments to comply with the obligation set forth in Article 1 of the Protocol. The report shall include the text of any applicable regulations, directives, or memoranda governing the policies of the departments in implementing that obligation.

(B) SUBSEQUENT REPORTS. --

(i) REPORT BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE. --The Secretary of State shall submit to the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate a copy of any report submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child pursuant to Article 8 of the Protocol.

(ii) REPORT BY THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE. --Not later than 30 days after any significant change in the policies of the military departments in
implementing the obligation set forth in Article 1 of the Protocol, the
Secretary of Defense shall submit a report to the Committee on Foreign
Relations and the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate describing the change and the rationale therefore.

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