Letter: Fighting child labour

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Sir: The Independent should be congratulated for devoting a full page (19 November) to stories about children on the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), in particular the plight of child guerrillas in Colombia.

We agree with Jan McGirk that practical measures are needed to prevent the use of child soldiers by armed groups. International legislation, however, is fundamentally important. For too long perpetrators of what are already considered war crimes under the Geneva Convention have enjoyed impunity.

This is why organisations such as Save the Children have lobbied so hard to press for a speedy ratification of the International Criminal Court, which will enable prosecutions for those using under-15s as cannon fodder. We welcomed the British government's commitment in the Queen's Speech towards its ratification.

In January negotiations will be under way at international level to create an optional protocol to the CRC to raise to 18 the age at which children can be engaged in war.

We would urge the British government, at the start of a new millennium, to play an active role in making this happen.


Human Rights Officer

Save the Children

London SE5