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Issue 286, Friday 22 February 2013 - 12 Rabi' al-Akhar 1434

US forces responsible for deaths of hundreds of Afghan children, says report

By Amirah Hussain

Afghan children killed in a 2011 US airstrike (Photo: Uruknet)

The deaths of hundreds of Afghan children killed by the US forces have been left uninvestigated and uncompensated since 2008, that’s according to a new report by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

At a meeting held on January 16 the Geneva-based CRC gathered to discuss the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict of the US.

The CRC was “alarmed at reports of the death of hundreds of children as a result of attacks and air strikes by the US military forces in Afghanistan” , according to the report released after the meeting, on February 8.

The CRC is a group of experts responsible for the monitoring of the implementation of the Conventions on the Rights of the Child by governments in the UN. All States parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented.

CRC reported that: “Despite all efforts to avoid them,” the US forces still manage to be responsible for the deaths of a number of Afghan civilians including hundreds of innocent children who were killed in US air over the past 4 years.

The CRC also said the US failed to redress or compensate the victims. Although the Committee has not officially released the exact number of children dead, it was also reported that the number of child casualties have doubled from 2010 to 2011. A UN report in April last year said 110 children were killed and 68 wounded in air strikes conducted by US-led NATO and Afghan forces in 2011.

The torture of children in Afghanistan has also been brought back to light as a point of concern. The US armed forces continue to arrest children in Department of Defense custody and there have been cases where children under the age of 18 were detained for over a year.

During their detainment they have been subject to abuse and in some cases alleged torture and/or ill treatment although the US has been urged to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice they are still allowing the detainment of children.

The CRC also examined the US armed forces recruitment of under-18s.

Voluntary recruitment among children under the age of 18 years and the deployment of children as young as 17 for the armed forces has also become a concern of the committee as they state that around 10% of recruits for the armed forces are under 18.

They also expressed concern that parents are sometimes unaware of the “voluntary nature” of a test, administered by the US Military Entrance Processing Command, used to determine qualification for enlistment in the US armed forces in schools and that in some cases students were informed that the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test was mandatory.

US forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A), which leads the NATO fight against Taliban insurgents, dismissed the committee's concerns as "categorically unfounded".

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