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Taylor McAdams Language Arts

February 6, 2017 Position Paper

A Second Chance

Imagine it's the middle of the night. An older man violently shakes you awake and forces

a strange liquid down your throat. Then, at the man's orders, you quickly grab your gun and run

out to the field and you fire at his commands. Houses and people explode. Now imagine those

times of fighting are over and people treat you as an outcast of society. Instead of having a

normal life, you spend you spend time in jail for being affiliated with a violent group who forced

you to work with them. How would you feel about this? Well, this is the life of a child solider in

war-torn countries halfway across the world from us. Kids who have had a childhood like this

should be granted amnesty because of the horrible conditions, both mentally and physically, the

adults who are the root problem of this, and there are other ways to help solve this problem that

do not require legal punishment.

Child soldiers faced terrible physical and mental conditions that impaired their ability to

make good choices. War caused many families to be torn apart, leaving kids alone and homeless

in their ruined towns. As they wandered for a place of refuge, some were captured by army

officials. A story told by a former child solider, Ishmael Beah, says that he went to his local

military base for protection, and instead, he was forced into fighting. From there on, Ishmael had

a choice to make, he either followed his commander's instructions and kill others, even civilians,

or get killed himself. A report by a company doing research on child soldiers found that,

"Children are often desired as recruits because they can be easily intimidated and indoctrinated.

They lack the mental maturity and judgment to express consent or to fully understand the
implications of their actions and are pushed by their adult commanders into perpetrating

atrocities." In addition, a military commander from the African nation of Chad told the Human

Rights Watch, "Child soldiers are ideal. They don't complain they don't expect to be paid-and if

you tell them to kill, they kill." To make matters worse, combined with the terrible commands

they are given, child soldiers are often drugged with mixtures of gunpowder and cocaine, as well

as alcohol. Child soldiers also live in claustrophobic, unsanitary conditions, are fed very little,

and sometimes not even paid. These conditions combined with a brain that is not completely

developed, do not allow children to make educated decisions on whether or not to join an army.

This inability to make smart decisions can cost them their life, or a chance at a normal adult life.

A terrible decision you make when you are younger shouldn't follow you around for the rest of

your life.

Child soldiers would not be in this mess in the first place if it weren't for the adults who

started the war and forced kids to participate. First off, the action of having child soldiers in your

army is illegal. According to Child Soldiers International, "In 1977, the Additional Protocols to

the 1949 Geneva Conventions prohibited the military recruitment and use of children under the

age of 15, which is now recognized as a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International

Criminal Court (2002). It applies to both government-controlled armed forces and non-state

armed groups." In addition, armies can start recruiting teens at age 16, but they cannot be sent to

war until they are 18. But why should children younger than that even be considered in the first

place? It's the military leaders who put the kids in war who are wrong, children shouldn't be

forced to fight against their will, especially because most of them have lost their parents or legal

guardians. These people might be so desperate to have a bigger, better army, but they shouldn't
have to resort to using kids as fighters. Adults are also the cause of why wars start, and because

of that, they should have to fix it themselves. Children should not have to be involved in this

mess. They are too young. In addition, The Children and Justice During and in the Aftermath of

Armed Conflict report says, If a child under the age of 15 is considered too young to fight, then

he or she must also be considered too young to be held criminally responsible for serious

violations of IHL (International Humanitarian Law) while associated with armed forces or armed

groups. Dragging kids into this mess only makes the problem bigger and more complex, it

solves absolutely nothing. Leaders of rebel groups could face even more criminal charges for

using kids, and they should.

Instead of immediately banishing child soldiers to the outskirts of society, children should

be able to live a complete life without their past following them into prison. Many groups child

soldiers are forced to join are rebel, or illegal groups. This means that after the war, they can

face charges for being part of a group that commits actions that go against their country. A group

they were forced to join. Putting kids in prison can completely eliminate the chance for them to

have normal adult life. A report on the topic says that children should not be prosecuted "simply

for association with an armed group or for having participated in hostilities There are instances

where children are accused of crimes under national or international law and are prosecuted

before a criminal court. Prosecution of a child should always be regarded as a measure of last

resort and the purpose of any sentence should be to rehabilitate and reintegrate the child into

society". Punishing kids legally can make their already fragile mental state worse, and it can be

hard to recover from that. However, some see this issue differently and say that child soldiers

should be punished because if they aren't, kids might be encouraged to continue committing acts
of violence, because they know they can get away with it. Punishing kids also teaches them that

you have to be help accountable for your actions. I strongly disagree with this argument because

there are better ways to help these kids that do not require strict, harsh punishment. If you come

down on one of these children hard, it will basically make the situation worse. Their mental state

will keep deteriorating and they will end up committing worse things than they already were

doing. A rehab where kids are welcomed with open, caring arms will help them get back to what

they once were. Everybody deserves a second chance.

It's your first day in a real American school after spending years fighting. All of your

classmates welcome you with open arms, they are excited to get to know you and eager to learn

about what your life once was. How would this make you feel? Good, right? That is what all

child soldiers deserve. Child soldiers should be granted amnesty because of the terrible

conditions they had to persevere through, the adults were the reason they were fighting in the

first place, and all children should be given the opportunity to live a complete life.
Works Cited

Armed and Underage. Upfront October 4, 2010 Armed and Underage, www.onlinedigitalpubs.com/

publication/?i=47599.

Child Soldiers Should Be Prosecuted. DebateWise, debatewise.org/debates/3002-child-soldiers-

prosecution/.

"International Laws and Child Rights." Child Soldiers International. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2017.

<https://www.child-soldiers.org/international-laws-and-child-rights>.

Ishmael Beah - Child Soldier. YouTube.

Should Child Soldiers Be Prosecuted for War Crimes? Debate.org, www.debate.org/opinions/should-

child-soldiers-be-prosecuted-for-war-crimes.