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Use of child soldiers could constitute a ‘war crime’

Apr 24, 2009 (DVB), The ongoing abuses by the Burmese government against civilians is reaching a point whereby the junta could qualify for war crimes charges, said a former senior legal adviser to the International Criminal Court.

Speaking at a conference in Oslo, Norway, entitled 'Crimes against humanity in Eastern Burma', Morten Bergsmo stated that the Burmese army's use of child soldiers could constitute a war crime.

"The recruitment and use of children under fifteen years may be a war crime, and by that an international crime if it happens as part of an ongoing armed conflict," he said.

"If that happens there may be the ground for investigating and prosecuting such abuses of children."

Speaking to DVB yesterday, David Mathieson from Human Rights Watch said that the ruling State Peace and Development Council is failing to adequately cooperate with the international community regarding use of child soldiers, and criticized a recent United Nation's report on the issue.

"[The report] puts a far more positive spin on the military government's cooperation that we think they deserve," he said.

"It's still a very serious issue inside Burma and the kind of report that just came out doesn't reflect the seriousness of the problem within the Burmese military and it's not very good of them to not investigate the biggest perpetrator by far."

Former Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik spoke at the conference on the need for the international community to cooperate on Burma.

"[Association of Southeast Asian Nations], China and India are more keen on maintaining a positive relation with the Burmese government to make business deals and buy gas from them, while Japan is providing help to the junta," he said, adding that the European Union and the United States were on their own tracks.

"Everyone should look for a conclusion everybody can agree with and cooperate together."

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw and Francis Wade


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