CRC/C/SR.1321 5 June 2008 (Summary record)
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS OF STATES PARTIES (continued)
Initial report of the United States of America under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC/C/OPAC/USA/1, CRC/C/OPAC/USA/Q/1 and Add.1, written replies by the United States of America, document without a symbol distributed in English only) (continued)
1. At the invitation of the Chairperson, the members of the delegation of the United Statesof America resumed places at the Committee table.
10. Ms. SMITH said that the Optional Protocol was about preventing children from becoming child soldiers and taking care of children who had been child soldiers; the United States had been a leader in the reinsertion and rehabilitation of child soldiers. Regarding the child soldiers detained in Iraq, the Committee had been informed that, although some received education, they did not receive adequate health services and were not brought before a judge; she would appreciate further information on those points.
11. Clarification of what was meant by the term “recruitment” would be useful, since it was used to describe military service and also the act of seeking recruits. She would like to know how the Department of Defense viewed the very aggressive recruiting tactics used in schools, even in the case of young children, and whether students who signed up for the delayed entry programme were made fully aware of what it implied, since it appeared that, each year, several thousand complaints were received on the special hotline.
22. Mr. KRAPPMANN said that the aggressive recruitment techniques used seemed to undermine the voluntary quality of military service. Also, it appeared that parents were involved only at the end of the process, rather than from the outset. Regarding the junior officer training programme, he asked whether activities were carried out during school hours, whether such activities were supervised by the principle or the school board, and whether other organizations were allowed to conduct activities in schools. He hoped that, in addition to providing time for military information, schools also assigned time to providing information on peace and human rights.
26. Ms. AIDOO, referring to the activities of the junior officer training programmes, asked whether the Government provided any financial incentives that might attract poorly-funded schools to participate in such programmes and to collaborate in the efforts to interest students in the military.
29. Mr. HARRIS (United States of America) …
31. There were two types of military recruitment: compulsory and voluntary. In both cases, in the legal sense, the term “recruitment” designated the moment that an individual entered the armed forces and not the process of attempting to attract new recruits. He referred the Committee to the periodic report for details of the strict procedures in place for checking that voluntary recruits were truly being recruited voluntarily, that their parents’ informed consent had been obtained, that recruits were aware of the duties involved and that proof of age had been provided.
47. Mr. ARENDT (United States of America) said that although there was pressure on recruiters, checks and balances were in place to ensure that recruitment was carried out appropriately. The primary market for the military’s marketing campaign was persons aged 18 to 24 years, not those aged 17 years. However, since students graduating from high school were aged between 17 and 19 years and although the majority were aged over 18 years, a small minority were aged 17 years. The Hutchinson Amendment outlined the military’s rights and restrictions in terms of recruitment, including the requirement for parental consent and for verification that applicants were in fact at least 17 years of age through presentation of at least two official forms of identification, such as a birth certificate or passport.
51. Ms. AIDOO asked what incentives the schools received to participate and what the children were required to pay back.
52. Mr. PARFITT asked why the programme was taught by the military and not by the schools system.
53. Mr. ARENDT (United States of America) said that the programme was completely voluntary. Participating schools were required to provide funding for half of the programme’s implementation, the majority of which went towards the salaries of the two military retirees running the programme in the school, and the military provided the rest of the funding. The military retirees were qualified by the military to instruct, but since the instructors were hired by the school, the school had control over the programme’s execution. Although the instructors were former members of the military, they were therefore fully integrated into the school system.
54. All applicants to the military were given a card on their rights as applicants, including a free telephone number to call with any complaints about the recruitment procedure. The offending recruiters could be disciplined under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
55. Regarding the delayed-entry programme, he said that every effort was made to ensure that applicants were aware of all aspects involved in a military career. Once applicants decided that they wanted to pursue a military career, they could sign a contract, but they were free to opt out at any point before they began basic training. They would probably be encouraged by recruiters to change their decision to opt out, but if they felt they were being coerced, they could file a complaint using the free telephone number.
56. Ms. ORTIZ, noting that many parents of recruited children did not speak English, asked whether such parents received information in their own language on the conditions and consequences of their children’s recruitment and on the right to opt out of the school directory.
57. Mr. ARENDT (United States of America) said that all communication from schools to parents, including the directory opt-out form, was translated into the parents’ first languages.
58. Mr. FILALI (Country Rapporteur) asked whether children who decided to opt out of the delayed-entry programme were required to reimburse any money paid to them and what those children’s status was between their opting out and their request being granted.
59. Mr. ARENDT (United States of America) said that monetary incentives were disburse upon completion of the training programme, so that reimbursement was not required, nor were penalties imposed on potential recruits who decided to withdraw from the programme. That policy also applied to the generous in-service education benefits. If a recruit decided not to enter military service, a code stating that the person in question was not suitable or capable for military service was issued upon his or her discharge. In the event that the former recruit decided to be reinstated, there was a procedure for identifying the reason for the assignment of a code, with a view to obtaining a waiver of recruitment policy in order to allow that person to re-enter the service.
60. The CHAIRPERSON stressed the importance for families of potential recruits to fully understand their rights, and the terms and consequences of such recruitment. It was all the more important for non-English speaking families to be provided with informational material in a language that they could understand.
61. Ms. ORTIZ asked why former recruits were punished for making a voluntary decision to opt out of military service. She said the system of assigning a code, declaring them unfit for military service, amounted to a form of penalty.
62. Mr. CITARELLA (Country Rapporteur) asked whether non-citizens could be recruited, or whether there was a facility for granting citizenship after recruitment.
63. Mr. ARENDT (United States of America), referring to the question on the assignment of a code to designate the status of applicants, said that the procedure was not meant to harm them in any way, but rather to confirm the seriousness of their intention to embark on a military career. He further clarified that only citizens or permanent residents of the United States were eligible for recruitment.
Concluding observations USA:
Participation in armed conflict
13. The Committee, while taking note of the amended policy of the State party to avoid direct participation in hostilities of members of the armed forces who are under 18 years, is nevertheless concerned that the State party failed to prevent the deployment of volunteer recruits below the age of 18 years to Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003 and 2004.
14. The Committee recommends the State party ensure that its policy and practice on deployment is consistent with the provisions of the Optional Protocol.
15. The Committee notes that the age for the recruitment of volunteers at 17 is valid only with the consent of their legal guardian. The Committee is concerned over reports indicating the targeting by recruiters of children belonging to ethnic and racial minorities, children of single female-headed households as well as children of low income families and other vulnerable socio-economic groups. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned over reported misconduct and coercive measures used by recruiters. The Committee regrets that the use of the No Child Left Behind Act for recruitment purposes is incompatible with respect for the privacy and integrity of children and the requirement of prior consent of parents or legal guardians. The Committee is furthermore concerned that parents are not fully informed of their right to request that schools withhold information from recruiters and that parents are only involved at the end of the recruitment process.
16. The Committee encourages the State party to review and raise the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces to 18 years in order to promote and strengthen the protection of children through an overall higher legal standard.
17. The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that recruitment does not occur in a manner which specifically targets racial and ethnic minorities and children of low-income families and other vulnerable socio-economic groups. The Committee underlines the importance that voluntary recruits under the age of 18 are adequately informed of their rights, including the possibility of withdrawing from enlistment through the Delayed Entry Program (DEP).
18. The Committee furthermore recommends that the content of recruitment campaigns be closely monitored and that any reported irregularity or misconduct by recruiters should be investigated and, when required, sanctioned. In order to reduce the risk of recruiter misconduct, the Committee recommends the State party to carefully consider the impact quotas for voluntary recruits have on the behaviour of recruiters. Finally, the Committee recommends the State party to amend the No Child Left Behind Act (20 U.S.C., sect. 7908) in order to ensure that it is not used for recruitment purposes in a manner that violates the children’s right to privacy or the rights of parents and legal guardians. The Committee also recommends the State party to ensure that all parents are adequately informed about the recruitment process and aware of their right to request that schools withhold information from recruiters unless the parents’ prior consent has been obtained. Military schools and training
19. The Committee notes the extensive use of Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) in high schools and notes with concern that children as young as 11 can enrol in Middle School Cadet Corps training
20. The Committee recommends the State party ensure that any military training for children take into account human rights principles and that the educational content be periodically monitored by the federal Department of Education. The State party should seek to avoid military-type training for young children.