Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Lebanon

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Lebanon, 2004, available at: [accessed 19 February 2018]
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.

Lebanese Republic

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 3.6 million (1.3 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 72,100
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: 18
Voting age: 21
Optional Protocol: signed 11 February 2002
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ILO 138, ILO 182

There was no evidence of under-18s in the government armed forces, and children were no longer used in combat. Child training continued among non-state groups, including Palestinian armed groups based in Lebanon's refugee camps.


There has been sporadic conflict on the southern border between some 2,000 Hizbollah fighters and Israeli forces following the withdrawal of Israeli troops from their "security zone" in southern Lebanon in 2000. This, together with the presence of some 18,000 Syrian troops deployed in Lebanon, prevented the government from assuming full control of the country.1 Thousands of Syrian troops were redeployed within Lebanon or back to Syria in 2003. At the end of 2003 the adoption of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act in the USA added further pressure for Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon.

Around 200,000 Palestinian refugees remained in refugee camps, largely autonomous areas outside Lebanese jurisdiction.2 Palestinian political groups were active in providing basic services in the camps, as well as political representation.


National recruitment legislation and practice

The National Defence Law No. 102/83, as amended, stipulates compulsory military service for all men aged 18 to 30 for a 12-month period. Law No. 3778/93 provides for exemptions and deferments on grounds that include sickness, study, economic need or the death of a brother in active service.3 Women are not required to serve. The minimum age for voluntary recruitment is 18.4

Other government security forces, including the Internal Security Force, are prohibited from recruiting under-18s.5

There were no reports of children in government forces.6 According to the authorities, any military recruitment policy that was "inconsistent with Lebanon's commitment to protect children's rights and to prevent them being used in war and conflict" would not be adopted.7 However, the National Defence Ministry said that a few recruits are enlisted at the age of 17 for regular service, although they are not "established in effective service before they turn eighteen" and their number was not known.8

Military training and military schools

Military training for recruits aged 18 and above only takes place at the First Flag Service Centre, which runs induction courses for all soldiers; the Military School for officers; the Command and Staff College, which offers further education; and specialist schools running courses for trained soldiers.9

Armed political groups

The disbandment of militias after the 15-year civil war ended in 1989 halted most recruitment of children, although two armed political groups continued to use them in non-combat roles.


In southern Lebanon, Hizbollah continued its low-intensity conflict with Israel with tacit government support. Its fighters were believed to be adults, although Hizbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is reported to have said that there is no specific age when a child becomes an adult and that it depends on the individual.10

Hizbollah did claim responsibility for several armed attacks carried out by minors up to 1994.11 However, the Israeli withdrawal in 2000 seemed to have ended this practice.12

Hizbollah continued to involve children in political rallies in 2002 and 2003, running a social group for under-15s called the al-Mahdi Brigades. In November 2003 children led the annual Jerusalem Day parade, dressed in military fatigues and carrying toy rifles.13

Children in southern Lebanon and the West Bakaa area continued to be injured and killed in Israeli raids on suspected Hizbollah fighters in civilian areas.14 Israeli landmines left in Lebanese territory also claimed children's lives, killing 20 and injuring 48 between 1998 and 2004.15

Palestinian groups

Nearly 20 Palestinian factions ran 12 refugee camps in Lebanon where conditions remained bleak. Conflict between the groups for control of the camps in 2002 and 2003 did not appear to involve minors, although child fatalities and injuries occurred.16

Military training and indoctrination of children persisted in many camps, although recruitment for combat, common before the mid-1990s, was believed to have ended.17 Captain Khaled Aref, General Secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Sidon and south Lebanon, stated that "the cubs' [boys'] and girls' camps are for education and enlightenment, even if it involves some work on the art of sports and fighting, because Palestinian refugees have the right to learn everything for the sake of liberating their land".18

The Lebanese authorities took no action to stop the training, and were "not aware of any instances where children have been used as war soldiers in Lebanon".19

Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR)

Children involved in combat during the civil war were demobilized or reached adulthood, including those forcibly recruited into the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA), which was disbanded in May 2000.20 Over 3,000 former SLA soldiers were captured, many of whom were tried in summary hearings before the Military Court in 2001 and 2002.21 None was a minor at the time of trial.22

Psychosocial programs to help child victims of conflict were offered after the civil war, and by 2004 the Social Affairs Ministry had established three centres for the rehabilitation of children affected by war.23 Services remained inadequate, given the scale of the problem and ongoing violence.24

Other developments

Official sources expected Lebanon to ratify the Optional Protocol in 2004, after two years of follow-up by the Higher Council for Childhood.25 Although national labour laws banned under-18s from working over six hours a day or in jobs jeopardizing their health, safety or morals, the laws were not fully enforced and child labour persisted, particularly in Palestinian areas.26

1 International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) conflict database, 2003;,

2 The autonomy of the camps derives from the 1969 Cairo Agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was formally voided by the Lebanese parliament in 1987, htm.

3 Lebanese armed forces, lb, Military service.

4 Lebanese armed forces, Conditions of volunteering as trained soldier.

5 Information from Lebanese Child Soldiers Coalition members, 11 March 2004; Internal Security Forces,

6 Coalition interview with Georges Assaf, Director, Institute of Human Rights, 1 April 2004.

7 Communication from Lebanese embassy, London, 26 February 2004.

8 Communication from National Defense Ministry, 22 April 2004.

9 Lebanese armed forces, LAF colleges and schools.

10 Coalition interview with Georges Assaf, op. cit.

11 For example, Aiman Hamzeh Baalback, who died aged 17 in 1994, Islamic Resistance Support Association,

12 Islamic Resistance Support Association, op. cit; Hizbollah,

13 Ammar Nehme, "Nasrallah in International Jerusalem Day", As-Safir, 24 November 2003; Karine Raad, "Hizbullah marks Jerusalem Day", Daily Star, 24 November 2003.

14 Al-Jazeera, "Lebanese child killed near Israeli border", 7 October 2003.

15 Confidential source, March 2004.

16 AFP, "Palestinian girl injured in refugee camp blast in south Lebanon", 4 March 2004.

17 Coalition interview with Georges Assaf, op. cit.; information from Lebanese Coalition members, op. cit.

18 Fidel Sbayte, "Scout Camp in Ain el-Helwa", El Balad, 28 January 2004.

19 Communication from Lebanese embassy, op. cit.

20 Human Rights Watch, Persona non grata: The expulsion of civilians from Israeli-occupied Lebanon, 1999,

21 Amnesty International Report 2002, http://web.

22 Coalition interview with Georges Assaf, op. cit.

23 Coalition interview with Higher Council for Childhood, op. cit.

24 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations: Lebanon, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.169, 1 February 2002,

25 Communication from Lebanese embassy, op. cit.; Coalition interview with Higher Council for Childhood, op. cit.

26 Labour Code Law, amendment of 14 June 1999, International Labour Organization,; Majdoline Hattoume, "Poverty forcing children to work despite the law", Daily Star, 19 November 2003.

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