Speakers at the three-day conference on children soldiers which opened in Amman on Sunday urged all world states to approve the Optional Protocol to the Convention on Child Rights and enact legislation to guarantee implementation of this protocol.
Queen Rania of Jordan said in an address read out on her behalf by Acting Prime Minister and Interior Minister Awad Khleifat, that "we, in this region which has seen armed conflict since the advent of this century, are fully aware of what wars can bring to children and communities."
"We in Jordan can see how the children in Iraq and Palestine are suffering and this strengthens our resolve and prompts us to exert further efforts to see those children enjoying their rights just like other children across the world," Queen Rania added, quoted by the official news agency, Petra.
Jordan was one of the first countries to sign a Rome Treaty to establish the International Criminal Court which considers recruiting children under 15 years old in military service a war crime.
There are over 300,000 children under the age of 18 involved in armed conflicts worldwide.
The international event is organized by Jordan Institute of Diplomacy (JID) in cooperation with UNICEF and the international Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (CSUCS).
JID President Kamel Abu Jaber told the conference that the use of children as soldiers and abusing them contravenes with human values and principles. "Using this group is a violation of their human rights approved by all international laws and charters," he said.
Petra cited a letter addressed to the conference by High Commissioner of Human Rights Mary Robinson as saying that thousands of children, some as young as 10, are serving with armed forces and militia groups in several countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.
"The countries of this region know at first hand the long-term scars participation in conflict leaves for children and their communities," Rory Mungoven, Coordinator of CSUCS, said. "The challenge now is to ensure such exploitation and abuse is prevented for future generations," Mungoven told the plenary session.
In its report to the conference, the Coalition says that there is no evidence of children being recruited or used systematically by the Palestinian Authority or armed groups in the six-month-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.
"Most of the children killed have been mere bystanders, in their homes or on their way to and from school," Mungoven said.
Organizers hope more countries in the region will join Jordan, Morocco and Turkey in signing the protocol.
More than 100 government and military officials and experts from the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are attending the meeting.
Participants in the first session chaired by Jordanian deputy Nuha Ma'aytah opening discussed three working papers on international legal protection of children in armed conflicts, child rights from an Islamic point of view, and the situation of children in the Middle East and North Africa, according to Petra.
The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers includes on its steering committee such organizations as Amnesty International, Defense for Children International and Human Rights Watch – Albawaba.com
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