Annual survey of international and comparative law, Vol. 20, issue 1, 2014, p. 73-100
This paper explores and analyzes the relationship between child soldiers and peace processes. It addresses the protections offered – or lack thereof – by human rights and international humanitarian law to child soldiers in armed conflicts. In particular, the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (“DRC”) is specifically addressed because the DRC conflict from 1996 to 2002 can most likely be classified as a non-international armed conflict – which is what most of today’s conflicts are deemed; also because the numerous peace treaties from this time frame primarily failed to provide a lasting peace in the DRC region. The paper argues that in order to achieve sustainable peace in the DRC conflict or any conflict that uses child soldiers, that child soldiers’ needs and rights must be addressed in the peace agreement. Furthermore, it is proposed that the peace process must address and ensure there is a structure for accountability and justice of those local leaders who abducted or recruited children under the age of eighteen years as child soldiers. Chapter 2 addresses who a child soldier is and reviews the legal definitions as well as the various international treaties, laws, and conventions designed to offer children special protections and ensure that their best interests are addressed. Chapter 3 looks at Graca Machel’s groundbreaking report on the “Impact of Armed Conflict on Children,” and the recognition of child soldiers. Chapter 4 specifically looks at the DRC as a case study. Chapter 5 sets out the paper’s conclusions that DDR child-specific programs and justice provisions should be included in peace agreements for there to be sustainable peace.