Who is a child ? : the legal conundrum of child soldiers
David M. Rosen
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Connecticut journal of international law, Vol. 25, no. 1, Fall 2009, p. 81-118
This article examines the issues surrounding the initial recruitment of child soldiers and the potential war crime liability those children may face. The analysis will focus on the importance of the age at which a young person is considered to be a child. Section I describes the conflict between sovereign states and the humanitarian and human rights organizations that challenge them, regarding the lawful age of recruitment and the criminal liability of child soldiers. Section II reviews current patterns in the recruitment of child soldiers and shows that non-state actors, such as insurgent groups and terrorist organizations, are now the primary users of children in armed conflict. Section III outlines the way the issue of age came to be incorporated into the laws of war. Section IV examines attempts by human rights and humanitarian groups to incorporate a universal definition of childhood into the laws of war. Section V looks at the ways international trial courts, specifically the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the International Criminal Court, have applied new statutory definitions of child soldiers in war crimes trials. Section VI describes the failure of international law to properly address the problem of child soldiers' culpability for war crimes.