Minors In The Bundeswehr: What Needs To Be Changed
Air War College, Air University Maxwell AFB
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International law generally prohibits the recruitment of persons under the age of 18 years into military service. It considers those persons to be children. As an exception, states may recruit persons as young as 15 years of age, provided special protection of those childrens rights against abuse is guaranteed. This includes, as a minimum, specific safeguards to be implemented, namely 1 genuinely voluntary recruitment, 2 informed consent of the persons parents or legal guardians, 3 full disclosure of the duties involved in military service, and 4 provision of reliable proof of age. Yet the German Federal Armed Forces in German, Bundeswehr recruits persons as young as 17 years. This recruitment practice is criticized by the United Nations and a number of human rights organizations because in their view, the young recruits rights are not adequately protected and it sets a bad example to others. This essay analyzes that critique. It finds that little of the critique merits a change to Germanys recruitment practice. However, one point of critique is well-founded and exposes a shortcoming in the implementation of the internationally mandated safeguards into German law. Germany should therefore amend its law so that 17-year-olds can freely end their military service at any time without consequences. In addition to the already genuinely voluntary recruitment, this will also ensure a genuinely voluntary military service for 17-year-olds.
- Military Forces and Organizations