The German Armed Forces recruit 17-year-old volunteers every year, and train them in weapon use. These totalled 1,679 in 2018, and as many as 2,128 in 2017 – a record that is triple the figure from 2011. Since 2011, the German Armed Forces has employed a total of 11,500 underage soldiers. They receive the same military training as adults, and are often often housed with them. They cannot perform armed service in Germany or abroad, but otherwise no special protection is granted to them.
Following a six-month probation period, the voluntary nature required under international law no longer exists, and the often long-term employment contracts cannot be terminated. If the young soldiers absent themselves from the German Armed Forces, they render themselves liable to prosecution as deserters.
The number of punishable sexual assaults recorded by the German Armed Forces rose sharply in 2017 and 2018. In both years, underage or newly-adult soldiers of the German Armed Forces were affected by sexual harassment or victims of rape.
At a diplomatic level, and as part of its development cooperation, the German federal government campaigns for countries such as Myanmar and Somalia to stop recruiting children and adolescents in their armies. Yet the German Armed Forces is one of just 46 armies worldwide to still recruit people aged under 18, thereby weakens the international 18+ standard. Armies and armed groups in warzones which recruit children as soldiers justify their actions by citing the fact that children and adolescents are recruited as soldiers in the USA, Germany and Great Britain – the three Western countries that still recruit youths in large numbers.
German Armed Forces advertising and information is often biased, barely mentioning the risks associated with being a soldier, such as trauma, injury or death. Many advertising campaigns for the German Armed Forces in the media and on the Internet are aimed directly at youths, wooing them with misleading images of campfires, sport and games on the beach. German Armed Forces soldiers, so-called youth officers and career advisors, also provide information and promote these careers at schools; they had a reach of over 200,000 pupils in 2017.
- The National Coalition Germany recommends that the UN Committee call on the German federal government to
- 145. Raise the minimum age for recruiting soldiers into the German Armed Forces to 18 and prohibit all forms of advertising campaigns for the German armed forces that target children, as per Recommendation 77a and b in the UN Committee’s Concluding Observations from 2014;
- 146. Record, document and publish all cases of breached children’s rights suffered by children and adolescents in the German Armed Forces. These breaches must then be immediately remedied.