Children and young people present around one hundred thousand red handprints from 34 countries to German President Horst Kohler this Thursday in Berlin. With the "Red Hand Day of Action", human rights and aid organizations want to draw attention to the fate of more than 250.000 child soldiers.
The day goes to 12. February 2002 back when the "Child Soldiers Additional Protocol" to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child came into force. It prohibits governments and armed groups from using children and young people under 18 as soldiers. Germany ratified the protocol in 2004. Amnesty International, UNICEF, terre des hommes, Kindernothilfe and World Vision, among others, called for the day of action.Most child soldiers in the world are in Burma (Myanmar).According to estimates by terre des hommes, 77 people are fighting there.000 minors in the government army and armed opposition groups. The "World Report on Child Soldiers 2008", presented by a coalition of leading children's and human rights organizations, states that between 2004 and 2007, child soldiers were deployed in a total of 19 countries.Kindernothilfe even ames that children are soldiers in every war in the world. Often, however, their use remains hidden. Spokesman Sascha Decker stresses that children are recruited not only as soldiers, but also as cooks, scouts or sex toys. "It is not only the use of weapons that makes a child a soldier."A large proportion of child soldiers are forcibly recruited. Others are lured by official armies or rebel groups with false promises and low pay. Fear of assault and the hope of protection also drives boys and girls to take up arms.Kindernothilfe's experience has shown that in the long term, deployment sows mistrust and discord in a nation and permanently damages society. "Even their own families are often afraid of former child soldiers," explains Decker. Athanasios Melissis of terre des hommes also points out that resocialization is usually a years-long process.The ongoing trial of former Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga at the International Criminal Court is seen by the organizations as progress. The accused is held responsible for the recruitment and use of hundreds of child soldiers in bloody fighting in the Congolese province of Ituri from 2002 to 2003.At the same time, aid organizations criticize Germany's treatment of former child soldiers. With a few exceptions, they are systematically denied the right to stay in Germany. Terre des hommes therefore demands that being a child soldier be recognized as grounds for asylum. According to Kindernothilfe, there are currently around 500 former child soldiers living in Germany.Terre des hommes spokesman Melissis stresses that educational work in the affected countries is also important. "Often there is simply no sense of injustice among offenders at all."With a project in Burma, for example, terre des hommes maintains direct contact with rebel groups and informs them about the consequences of the use of child soldiers.