Child Soldiers – A Brief Legal Survey

The concept of a ‘child soldier’ – the involvement of children (through recruitment or otherwise) in the violence and brutality of armed conflict – is abhorrent to most adults who consider the matter. This is borne out by the fact that there are a number of international conventions and other mechanisms which condemn the practice and which create an international framework to combat it.

Who are child soldiers? The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (see below) defines a child as a person below the age of eighteen years. However, for the purpose of restricting recruitment into the armed forces of a State Party to the Convention, and for the requirement that States Parties “take all feasible measures to ensure” that children “do not take a direct part in hostilities”, the Convention uses the lower age of fifteen years (Article 38).

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (see below) uses the age of eighteen years to condemn the recruitment of children, or their use in hostilities, by armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a State (Article 4).

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (see below) includes, within the definition of “war crimes”, the crime of conscripting or enlisting children, or using them to participate actively in hostilities, by either national armed forces or any armed group (Articles 8(2)(b)(xxvi) and 8(2)(e)(vii)). For these purposes, a child is a person below the age of fifteen years.

Where are child soldiers used? Child soldiers may be found both in government armed forces and in armed groups which oppose the central governments of their countries. The Coalition to Stop the use of Child Soldiers, which was launched in 1998 by several groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, reports that the majority of children under the age of 18 years, who are involved in conflict, are associated with armed groups.

The Coalition reports that Africa has the largest number of child soldiers. Children are being used in armed conflict in countries such as Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sudan. It also reports child soldiers in various Asian countries, such as Myanmar and Indonesia, in the Middle East and in Latin America.

Because the Coalition campaigns for a complete prohibition of all recruitment and use for military purposes of persons under the higher age of 18 years, its web site notes that the United States, and such other western countries as Austria, Australia, France, Germany, the United kingdom and Canada, are countries which recruit children (that is, persons under the age of 18) into their armies.

How are child soldiers used? Most publicity surrounding child soldiers has focused on their use in non-western countries by both armed groups and government armed forces. Such publicity makes it clear that child soldiers are used in these countries to fight and kill, participating directly in combat. They may also be used to loot and destroy property; to lay mines and explosives; to scout, spy and act as decoys. Girls are widely reported to be used for sexual purposes and for domestic tasks, as well as for these other purposes.

Important International Conventions: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child entered into force in September 1990. As noted above, Article 38 of that Convention deals with the issue of children in the context of a country’s armed forces and of hostilities generally. In paragraph 4, the Article states that, “States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by armed conflict”.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict entered into force in 2002. It requires that States Parties “take all feasible measures” to ensure that members of their armed forces who are under the age of 18 “do not take a direct part in hostilities” (Article 1) and requires that children under that age not be compulsorily recruited (Article 2). (Voluntary recruitment of children between the ages of 15 and 18 into a State’s armed forces is not banned by the Convention or the Protocol.)

Article 3 of the Optional Protocol requires that States Parties that permit under-18 voluntary recruitment must maintain certain safeguards (including ensuring the informed consent of the child’s parents or legal guardians). States Parties are also required to take “all feasible measures” to prevent recruitment and use by armed groups of children under the age of 18, including the adoption of legal measures necessary “to prohibit and criminalize such practices”.

The International Labour Organization Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour came into force in November 2000. The Convention defines a child as a person under the age of 18 years. Ratifying States are required to take urgent measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, among which are included “forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed forces”.

Enforcement: A body of independent experts, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, was established further to Article 43 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee monitors the implementation of the Convention and the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. States Parties must submit regular reports to the Committee.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone (which was established by the United Nations and the Sierra Leone government in 2002) handed down the first convictions by an international tribunal for the crime of recruitment and use of child soldiers.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) entered into force on July 1, 2002. The first trial before the ICC, which started, after long delays, on January 26, 2009, deals with the war crimes of conscripting and enlisting child soldiers under the age of 15 years and of using them to participate actively in armed conflict. This trial, described as a landmark event in the development of international law, should bring increased public attention to the issue of child soldiers.

Legal Transcription Companies in the US – Make the Right Choice

Legal transcription outsourcing has become the need of the hour. Lawyers, attorneys, law companies and other legal professionals / entities increasingly choose to entrust the transcription jobs to a reputable transcription company to save labor and time. These companies transcribe various legal reports such as legal letters, court proceedings, client letters, reports, court transcripts, arbitration’s, interrogations, legal pleadings, trials, and general correspondence.

How to Choose the Best Legal Transcription Service Provider

There are a number of legal transcription companies in the US that provide legal transcription services. However, to choose a competent and dedicated company from among the vast number of service providers is a big challenge. There are certain factors you need to consider when hiring a transcription company.

The first and most important point to check is the credibility and reputation of the firm. Taking feedback from the existing clients of the firm can prove to be helpful in determining this.

Most transcription companies provide a free trial of their services. This is the best way to get a firsthand experience of their services. During this free trial you should check the following:

• Infrastructure
• Accuracy of final draft
• Turnaround time
• Promptness and responsiveness of the staff
• Professionalism and skill of the staff
• Whether they have excellent measures to safeguard confidentiality and security
• Dedication towards customer service

This would surely provide a basic idea as to the working process and the level of commitment of the staff and the company as a whole.

What Are the Qualities That Legal Transcription Companies Should Possess?

When it comes to accuracy, nothing below 99 percent is acceptable in this regard. Hence, it is inevitable for any firm to employ the best staff to get accurate results. Apart from this, to enhance performance of their staffs, most reliable firms impart training sessions to keep them updated with the changing demands and expectations of their clients.

Also, a three level quality assurance check of every document has become the rule. To get the best, most accurate and error-free output these companies are recruiting professional proofreaders, editors and transcriptionists to review the documents. Only after a document is approved at all the three levels, it is handed over to the client.

It is equally important to maintain the security of the legal documents. No compromise is acceptable when it comes to confidentiality and security. So it is the responsibility of the company to adopt the required measures for ensuring complete security and privacy for client data.

Apart from this, the legal transcription firm should also provide:

• Affordable and competitive rates
• Quick turnaround time
• Convenient dictation options (toll-free number/digital recorder) according to client preference
• Facility of electronic signatures
• 24/7 customer support and technical assistance

Considering the above guidelines when choosing an outsourcing partner from among the numerous legal transcription companies in the US will help you find the right firm. It is advisable to go for a provider that has facilities in the US and offshore, if you are looking for affordable services and round-the-clock service.

Legal Marketing – A Primer

When marketing your law practice, your success in increasing traffic is determined by your ability to provide valuable services to existing customers, and communicate that value to prospects. This means you need to have an open dialogue with your customers and be tuned in to your market. Here is a full primer to educate you on the matter of legal marketing, so that you can build a campaign that works and drives customer traffic to your business.

1. Have a measurement system in place

In order to be effective in marketing, you need to have a way to track the performance of your efforts. This can be as simple as plugging Google Analytics into your website to track traffic, or more advanced methods, such as having an information capture when new customers come in so you can learn how they heard about you. Without measuring, you have no way to know where you are, what to do next, or if what you are doing is working. You need to have some sort of feedback system in place before you even begin a campaign.

2. Create value and authority

The best form of marketing is completely organic. You provide excellent service to a client, they tell all of their friends and family about their incredible experience, and suddenly you have two or three new clients knocking on your door. A great way to build this kind of branding leverage is to provide incredible value to your prospects and customers. Be willing to give away something, even if only information, for free. Volunteer to speak at local clubs and business organizations, or write informative articles and blog posts. Try to give your clients value before you have even met them.

3. Meet your prospects where they are

Marketing is not rocket science. It is simply communicating with your market, the people who are willing and able to purchase your products and services. Technology has exponentially increased the avenues by which you can accomplish this goal. Invest in marketing through multiple mediums. For instance, you can build and optimize your Website, use social media to reach your customers, or engage in direct mail campaigns. There are many different ways to reach your customers, find out which work best for your business.

4. Use feedback to readjust

Marketing, is in many ways as much science as it is art. That is why it is so important that you measure and record customer responses. With every campaign, you are essentially performing a social experiment, and measuring how people respond to it.

Measure the customer response to every marketing initiative you execute. Pay close attention to how, where, and when you execute each ad, email, or direct mail campaign, and attempt to measure the traffic generated from each. Using the information you collect, experiment with different campaigns to see what is the most effective in terms of cost and return on investment. Since there are infinite opportunities for marketing, you can constantly try new things and refine your approach.