Should Child Soldiers Be Granted Amnesty?

By Anisa Pasha

Anisa Pasha, Head Editor

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Imagine waking up, loading your gun, and killing people left and right. Shooting loud and heavy guns to kill people. This sounds intense, but it’s reality. Starting at the age of 4 to 18, boys and girls from Somalia, Congo, Zimbabwe, Sudan and more, are forced to kill whoever is in sight. They also are used as spies, cooks, and even for sexual purposes. However, are these choices made by those kids? No. They are commanded by adults. All of the crimes that child soldiers commit, they are forced into committing them by those adults in charge. In addition, those teen and pre-teen child soldiers are under the influence, and forced to take drugs. For instance, they are drugged under marijuana and cocaine, far below the age for this action to be legal. Last, those child soldiers don’t know any better. Kids who fight do not have proper education therefore they don’t know right from wrong. Child soldiers should be granted amnesty because they are commanded by adults, they are brainwashed and don’t know any better, and last, they are under the influence by their commander. Amnesty is legal forgiveness, which is exactly what these child soldiers need, for crimes that they didn’t arrange.

 

Do 8 year old kids make their own decisions to kill people on a daily basis? Be a spy? No. Their commander forces them to do things that the children do not want to do, and have no power over. Child soldiers should be granted amnesty because they are commanded by adults. In every military group, there is always someone controlling and leading the troops. In this case, there are leaders that command these child soldiers to do terrible things such as kill people and fight.  “Forces come through their village and grab them and force them into fighting. It’s an absolute negation of their basic rights as children, but also as people, not to be treated just as cannon fodder.” (South Sudanese Commanders Use Child Soldiers as Cannon Fodder, 2015). This proves that child soldiers are forced into fighting when they are clearly not at an appropriate age to do so. Those kids did nothing to get their lives risked, all volunteered by adults. You may think that these child soldiers have the right to refuse to fight;, however, that makes matters worse. According to the article “Coercion and Intimidation of Child Soldiers to Participate in Violence” (2008), it states that, “Child soldiers who refuse to comply with orders may be severely beaten or threatened with execution.” When these soldiers refuse to do a certain thing such as be a spy or kill people, they have to kill themselves. This is important because it shows how severe these soldiers are treated especially if they refuse their commanders orders. No punishment is more cruel than someone taking away someone’s life. To add on, these child soldiers aren’t just forced to fight and kill people. They also are forced to rape others, and be married to militiamen. Stated in the article “Raped then Rejected, Stigma Drives Former Girl Soldiers Back into Congo’s Militias” (2017), “For many girls in the conflict-ravaged east of the country, the pain of being spurned by their families and friends as survivors of rape was worse than the violence itself, according to a report by Britain-based Child Soldiers International.” This says a lot because not only are young adults forced to kill people, but they are also forced to rape or get raped by people, along the lines of being of being from 4 to 18 years old. Yet alone not being able to refuse without an atrocious consequence. There is a point to be made that kids do have a say, such as if they want to fight or not. Even so, the evidence is clear that you cannot refuse an order from your commander. “Dominic Ongwen, a commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, who was abducted at 10 by the LRA and forced to fight.” (How do children end up as child soldiers?, 2015).  

 

In relation, those kids are still young. The real education starts at least at the age of 10. But how can these kids get their education while being forced to fight and commit crimes? This leaves kids not getting proper education., instead having no knowledge whatsoever. 8 year olds don’t have the proper mindset to do pretty much anything. Child soldiers should be granted amnesty because the kids are brainwashed and don’t know any better. Being a teen or young adult, their minds aren’t fully developed, therefore they do not know basic things. The Story “Understanding the Teen Brain”  says that “The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until he or she is 25 years old or so.” That is not even double the age of these child soldiers. Therefore, those child soldiers do not know right from wrong. On the other hand, those older soldiers do have a small bit of education. However, they are brainwashed by their commanders into doing more violent crimes such as killing their own family. Nasir, a 12 year old child says his side of the story. The story “Isis is brainwashing children to murder their own parents, child soldier who escaped from Raqqa reveals” (2016), tells us that “They would look after us better than our parents,” Nasir said. “When they were training us they would tell us our parents were unbelievers and that our first job was to go back to kill them,” he added. These commanders are brainwashing those kids making them think that their commanders treat their kids better than their parents, so that this will convince those kids to kill their own parents and families. It’s all apart of those commanders’ plan, and those adults are just playing a game that those kids don’t know how to play. As a result, this leaves the kids completely brainwashed, and they don’t know any better. To make matters worse, those child soldiers are given drugs. The leaders of the forces sugar coat the fact that they are giving young children bad substances known as drugs. According to the story “Liberia/Sierra Leone: Warlords Reap From a Children’s War” (1999), the article says that “Also the kids talk about being given ‘bubbles,’ a tablet that is apparently an amphetamine, an ‘upper.’ The theory apparently is that if a kid is intoxicated, he’ll be braver jump over his friend’s body and keep shooting.” Stating the obvious, these kids are being brainwashed to give them the urge to kill, and they are unaware of it. Many people argue that after being a child soldier, no matter what, you are still yourself and nothing can change that. Even after committing such crimes. On the contrary, everything changes such as becoming a killer. “The conventional image of of the child soldier is a teen or pre-teen abducted by adult fighters, brainwashed, brutalised, and turned into a killer.” (If you are old enough to carry a gun, you are old enough to be a soldier, 2017). This article not only proves that these child soldiers are brainwashed by their commanders, but also that they are completely different people, such as being turned into a killer.  

 

Continuing the topic of being under the influence, these child soldiers ages 4-18 are being drugged by their commanders. Why? To give them the urge to kill people. Child soldiers should be granted amnesty, because they are under the influence by their commanders. “Children are given a mixture of cane juice (from sugar cane) and gunpowder which makes them high and is supposed to give them courage to go and fight at the front. As in another case a worker explained, kids are often supplied with drugs; marijuana is the most common drug, but kids are given cocaine too.” (Liberia/Sierra Leone: Warlords reap from a children’s war, 1999). These are some of the worst drugs that you could ever put in your system, and what more for a child. However, the problem lies here. When under the influence of drugs, your mind cannot function the same, especially for kids. The list goes on and on, for the amounts of side effects and long term conditions can be “Cancer; heart disease; lung disease; liver function; mental disorders; and infectious diseases such as hiv/aids, hepatitis, and tuberculosis.” (Drug abuse puts your whole body at risk, 2007). While being under the influence, your brain cannot think right, therefore these kids do things that they have absolutely no control over, and that is not their fault. In the future, these kids end up getting addicted to drugs at such a young age. “Child soldiers are drugged by militia leaders. They become violent and addicted, and their reintegration into society becomes difficult.” (Drug Addiction Hinders Child Soldier Reintegration, 2010). These child soldiers are forced into doing things that they have no control over, which results in addiction and committing violent crimes. People say that it is not that easy to get addicted to drugs, and that the doses of drugs are weekly. On the other hand, that is not what happens. A story written about Ishmael Beah, a child soldier survivor tells us that “Daily doses of drugs kept Beah hard and fractious.” (Once a drugged child soldier, Beah reclaims his soul, 2007). While taking daily doses of drugs, these kids are bound to get addicted. All in all, being given drugs is the commander’s’ choice, not the kids.

 

In conclusion, child soldiers should be granted amnesty. There are thousands and thousands of child soldiers that are suffering day in and day out having to do things that they don’t want to do, and have no control over, due to the fact that they are being controlled by their commanders. In addition, the kids are being brainwashed by their commanders and the 4 year olds don’t know that they are taking someone’s life, because they simply don’t know any better, which is not their fault. It it also not their fault how the child soldiers are given drugs by their commanders. How are kids supposed to think straight if they are under the influence? All of these actions are controlled by those adults. These children feel that their actions are wrong and forgiving them would help out with the process, making sure they don’t feel that guilt for something they didn’t commit. At the end of the day, these crimes are really committed by the commanders, however the kids’ actions are the ones liable. Would you want to be blamed for something that wasn’t your idea? Being given amnesty is the only way out.