Saturday, February 03, 2007

Britain admits deploying at least 15 teens to Iraq

British soldiers in Basra secure the scene following an attack on their convoy two weeks ago

LONDON, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- The British Ministry of Defense has acknowledged that at least 15 17-year-old soldiers have been deployed to Iraq, violating a United Nations protocol.

Four of the teenagers were female, The Scotsman reported.

Britain signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict in 2003 -- the year it joined the coalition invading Iraq. Under the protocol, no one under 18 should be deployed in combat unless there are exceptional circumstances.

"Unfortunately, these processes are not infallible and the pressures on units prior to deployment have meant that there has been a small number of instances where soldiers have been inadvertently deployed to Iraq before their 18th birthday," the ministry said in a statement.

Teenagers, especially 16- and 17-year-olds have become a major source of recruits for the Army. More than half of those who joined last year were under 18.

Read the rest at UPI