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Letters to the 107th Congress

August 21, 2001

The Honorable Joseph Biden
Committee on Foreign Relations
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Mr. Chairman:

On behalf of the American Bar Association, I am writing to urge your committee's earliest consideration of the two optional protocols to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC): the Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, and the Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. The ABA strongly supports U.S. ratification of both of these protocols, which offer real hope towards halting the abhorrent practices of child soldiering and sex trafficking.

As you may know, the child soldiers protocol establishes eighteen as the minimum age for direct involvement in hostilities, while allowing sixteen- and seventeen-year olds to voluntarily join their armed services. Ratification will show that the United States stands behind growing international efforts to eliminate the use of child soldiers, a practice that currently involves some 300,000 children under 18 fighting in approximately 30 conflicts worldwide. At the same time, U.S. ratification can be accomplished without jeopardizing U.S. military readiness, as the protocol would impact only an extremely minor percentage of our armed forces.

The Protocol on Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography seeks an end to one of the most heinous and pervasive human rights abuses of modern times-the enslavement and global trafficking of children for sexual purposes. Globally, millions of children under 18 are being sold and forced to exist in slavery-like conditions where they are vulnerable to extreme violence and abuse. Those who survive often are psychologically traumatized and many suffer long-term physical disabilities and health problems, including HIV infection. The protocol makes these acts criminally punishable, and includes helpful provisions regarding jurisdiction, extradition, and international cooperation, while providing for the protection of child victims.

In urging U.S. ratification of these optional protocols to the CRC, the ABA notes that the United States has signed but not yet ratified the CRC itself. Our long-standing position is that the United States should ratify the CRC, subject to appropriate reservations, understandings or declarations. However, there is no legal impediment to the United States becoming a party to these protocols, notwithstanding the United States has not yet ratified the CRC. Indeed, we note that it was at the behest of the United States that both protocols expressly allow signature and ratification by states that are not parties to the CRC. Thus, while the ABA continues to strongly support U.S. ratification of the CRC, the fact that such ratification has not yet occurred should not further delay action on these two laudable protocols.

We look forward to the Senate's advice and consent to ratification of these optional protocols, and pledge whatever further assistance and information your committee may find helpful. If you or your staff have any questions, please contact Kristi Gaines in the ABA's Governmental Affairs Office at 202-662-1763.

Thank you very much for your attention to these important issues.


Robert D. Evans
Director, Governmental Affairs Office

107th Congress Letters Home

Governmental Affairs Office
740 Fifteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
ph: 202-662-1760
fx: 202-662-1762

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