The Child Soldier’s Accountability Act was signed Friday by President Bush, “gives the federal government the authority to prosecute, deport or deny admission to an individual who recruited or used child soldiers under the age of 15.” According to the new law, it is now a federal crime to recruit or use soldiers under 15 years of age. Offenders of the law that are on US soil can now be prosecuted and can face up to 20 years in prison, or life in prison if the child dies as a result of their actions. The United States can also deny entry or deport anyone who has committed these offenses.
According to Jo Becker of Human Rights Watch, “the law could apply to leaders of dozens of forces that have recruited and used child soldiers in over 20 armed conflicts.” and “the United States is stepping up to hold these war criminals accountable in its own courts.”
Senator Coburn with Senator Durbin introduced the bill (cosponsored by Senators Russ Feingold and Sam Brownback). Coburn stated:
Children should never participate in hostilities. Yet, tragically, more than 2 million children around the world have lost their childhoods, their innocence, and ultimately their lives following forced or coerced recruitment into militaries or militias. Another 6 million have suffered disabling injuries, and 250,000 children continue to be exploited today. This bill helps ensure that those who recruit or use child soldiers will not be able to seek safe haven in the United States and in the event they are found in this country, it allows us — for the first time — to punish them under U.S. criminal laws.