Stop Use of Child Soldiers by Extremist Groups in Mali

Target: International Criminal Court

Goal: End the use of child soldiers by Islamist rebel groups in Mali

War between the Malian army and Islamist rebel groups wages on. However, in the early weeks of 2013, tensions between these groups and the Malian army became increasingly hostile. Since then, witnesses have reported seeing dozens of children involved in the armed conflict. With attacks becoming more frequent and violent in nature—like France implementing an aerial bombardment since January 11, 2013—rebel groups must make the well-being of children a priority by releasing child soldiers.

The use of children as soldiers by Islamist rebel groups has steadily increased since they gained control of Northern Mali in April 2012. These groups—Ansar Dine, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)—have reportedly recruited and deployed hundreds of children under the age of 18 (some as young as 12 and 13 years old). These child soldiers are being used for everything from guarding checkpoints to active fighting in combat.

“These Islamist groups have no business recruiting children into their ranks, much less putting them on the front line,” said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These groups seem to be willfully putting scores of children directly in harm’s way. Before the military campaign goes any further, the Islamists should release these children back to their families.”

According to witnesses, Islamist rebel groups are targeting small, rural villages for the recruitment of young boys. Inhabitants of these rural areas typically practice a very conservative, traditional form of Islam known as Wahhabism.

The use of children as soldiers is a war crime. Right now, Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, is deciding whether or not to enact an investigation into war crimes committed in Mali, which includes the use of child soldiers.

Sign below to call for an immediate end to the use of child soldiers by Islamist rebel groups in Mali, and encourage the International Criminal Court to open an investigation and bring those responsible for recruiting child soldiers to justice.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court,

The war in Mali warrants your attention. There is extensive use of children as soldiers by Islamist rebel groups in the region, which constitutes a war crime. These abuses cannot go on without consequence.

Several witness accounts place children at the front lines of the war in Mali. Islamist rebel groups Ansar Dine, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have recruited, trained, and sent hundreds of children—as young as twelve years old—into armed conflict.

Under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the use of children under the age of 18 for hostile conflict is a war crime. Furthermore, recruitment of children under the age of 15 into armed forces is a crime under the Rome Statute. Therefore, it is the duty of the court to bring those responsible for using children as pawns in an increasingly violent war to justice.

Please take immediate steps to end recruitment of child soldiers and reunite these children with their families.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Associated Press

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