Some very good news; the ministry of Defence has changed the minimum age for all General Military Courses (AMO) and all General Military Airmobile Courses (AMOL) in the Netherlands. This is a direct result of Marieke Hopman’s MA research on children’s rights and the 2014 OPAC report by the Dutch NGO Coalition for Children’s Rights. Until recently the minimum age for starting these courses were age 16 and 6 or 9 months. As soon as someone enters either of these courses, they are officially employed by the military. Which means that these minors might be defined as “child combatants”. This practice is clearly against both domestic and international legislation.
The change did not require a change in law, since the policy of recruiting those below age 17 for mililtary courses aspiring mililtary officers was already against domestic law. The original OPAC report on the issue argued as follows;
‘According to the website of the government, students can start with the AMO at the age of 16 years and 9 months. AMOL-students can start at the age of 16 years and 6 months. This contradicts domestic law which provides that only “those who have reached the age of 17 may be enlisted as military trainees [aspirant military officers]” (article 1a of the Military Personnel Act). It also contradicts the binding declaration of the Dutch government given upon ratification that states: “persons who have reached the age of seventeen years, may on a strictly voluntary basis be recruited as military personnel in probation” (§13 of the Initial report)’ (p. 10).
In the OPAC report, the coalition recommended to the Dutch government to “ensure that only persons of seventeen years and older on the military courses for aspiring military officers are admitted”. They have taken over this recommendation quietly , which can be seen on the ministry of Defence recruitment website (see picture).
This is of course a small step in the right direction. Next on the agenda: develop and implement specific guidelines for the military education of minors! To ensure that minors are not treated as adult recruits, for example by making sure no minors are beaten up during any exercise.