The UK remains the only EU country to recruit 16 year olds into the military and one of very few EU countries to recruit 17 year olds. The UK has signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict yet there is evidence that the UK continues to target children from vulnerable groups and that safeguards to protect under-18s are not effective (see Child Soldiers Global Report 2008: United Kingdom).
The report of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: Concluding Observations on the UK (October 2008) asks that the UK “reconsider its active policy of recruitment of children into the armed forces and ensure that it does not occur in a manner which specifically targets ethnic minorities and children of low-income families”. It also recommends that the UK government review the limited discharge rights for child soldiers and “that parents are included from the outset and during the entire process of recruitment and enlistment.”
All these recommendations have been supported by the UK Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights in their report on Children's Rights in November 2009