Last Updated: Monday, 23 October 2017, 15:25 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Lebanon

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2001
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Lebanon, 2001, available at: [accessed 23 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 3,236,000
    – under-18s: 1,257,000
  • Governmental armed forces:
    – active: 63,570
    – paramilitary: 13,000
  • Compulsory recruitment age: 18
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 18
  • Voting age (government elections): 21
  • Child soldiers: none indicated in government armed forces; indicated in armed groups
  • CRC-OP-CAC: not signed
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC
  • Children are known to participate in various armed groups operating in the country. There are no indications of under-18s in government armed forces.


In 1975 civil war broke out between various Maronite Christian factions and an alliance of Muslim, Leftist and Palestinian militias. The first phase of fighting ended in 1976 with Syrian intervention in support of the Lebanese government. Intense fighting resumed in 1982 after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. From 1985 Israel maintained a "security zone" in the south of Lebanon in a bid to stop cross border attacks, supporting a local militia – the South Lebanese Army (SLA) – to maintain control of the strip. After the invasion the Palestinian Liberation Organisation's (PLO) presence was limited to a few refugee camps in the south. In this vacuum, the Shi'a Muslim Hizbullah emerged and resumed attacks in the southern zone, as well as launching several rocket attacks into Israel itself. This low-intensity conflict ended in June 2000 with Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon. Many militia fighters have turned their weapons over to the government and/or joined the armed forces. The South Lebanese Army has been dissolved, with members either on trial in Lebanon or taking refuge in Israel. A 30,000 strong Syrian 'protection force' remains in Lebanon in support of the government.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

There is no mention of military service in the Constitution.1099 The legal basis of conscription is Law 110/1983. During the civil war this law was not implemented. In 1992, conscription was resumed under decree 2354/1992. All men between the age of 18 and 29 are liable for military service, which lasts for 12 months.1100 The minimum age for voluntary recruitment is 18.1101


Child Recruitment and Deployment

Armed militias had a history of recruiting youths during the civil war, with both young boys and girls taking part in the fighting.1102 Some girls, as young as eleven, received military training from the militias.1103 The 1996 Graça Machel report noted that some adults had used young people's immaturity to their own advantage, recruiting and training adolescents for suicide bombings.1104 A study commissioned by UNICEF in 1990 estimated that one per cent of Lebanese children had taken part in combat, and stated that many young people may have become resigned to violence and a military life.1105

A documentary film called War Generation produced by Jean Chamoun and Mai Meeri showed the impact of the war on Lebanese youth. Some these youth began military training at the age of thirteen. One boy was quoted as saying, "The war forces us to take up arms." Some of the youths fought on more than one side, siding with Muslims, Christians, Druze or Palestinians at different times. Many youths had no ideological commitments but were more concerned with protection, income and loss of education.1106

  • Hizbullah: 300-500 active, with 3,000 reserves1107

Unlike other groups in this section, Hizbullah operates with the consent of the Lebanese government. This militia turned political party was established in 1982 by a group of Shi'a clerics. In May 2000, Israeli forces withdrew from their so-called "security zone" but Hizbullah maintained an armed presence in the south. Hizbullah is alleged to have formerly recruited children as young as ten into its ranks; however this practice has now ceased as it no longer has a shortage of mature, voluntary recruits.1108

  • Palestinian groups

The Lebanese Government has not attempted to disarm several armed Palestinian factions which control refugee camps. Boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 16 have in the past been trained in combat in the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) refugee camps in southern Lebanon. One observer commented that Palestinian boys known as "Palestinian Lion Cubs" were proficient in the use of rifles and commando techniques. Girls of the same age also carry rifles.1109

  • South Lebanese Army (SLA)

The SLA, which included Muslims from the Sunni, Shia and Druze traditions as well as Christians, was responsible for forcibly recruiting teenage boys. No minimum age has been specified for those entering the militia. A former SLA fighter who deserted in 1995 told Human Rights Watch, "They take them even at twelve years old if they are tall and strong."1110 Other accounts suggest that sometimes the SLA security chief in a village personally instructed fathers that their sons should "volunteer." If families did not respond, the sons were forcibly recruited. A former resident of Sheba, said that teenagers between the ages of fifteen and seventeen were targeted for forced recruitment.1111 The South Lebanese Army has been dissolved, with members either on trial in Lebanon or taking refuge in Israel. Although the SLA included children under 18 in its ranks, none of the former SLA members currently on trial in Lebanon are minors.


1100 Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.; Brett and McCallin op. cit.

1101 Brett and McCallin op. cit.

1102 Woods, Dorothea, Child Soldiers, The Recruitment of Children into the Armed Forces and Their Participation in Hostilities, London, Quaker Peace and Service, 1993.

1103 Karame, Kari H.' "Girl's Participation In Combat: A Case Study From Lebanon", in Elizabeth Warnock Fernea's Children in the Muslim Middle East, Austin, University of Texas Press, 1995, p. 379.

1104 UN, Graca Machel, Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, 26/6/96.

1105 Mona Macksoud, Lebanese Children and War, UNICEF Conference on Peace-Building and Development of Lebanon, 4/90.

1106 Victoria Sherrow op. cit.

1107 IISS op. cit.

1108 RB, Child war database

1109 Victoria Sherrow op. cit., p.180.

1110 HRW, Persona Non Grata: the Expulsion of Civilians from Israeli-Occupied Lebanon, p.35.

1111 Ibid.

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