Victims and perpetrators: Issues of responsibility relating to the problem of child soldiers in Africa
31-12-2003 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 852, by Nairi Arzoumanian, Francesca Pizzutelli
The responsibility under international law of those who recruit children and the responsibility of child soldiers who commit serious violations of the laws of war are both examined in this article, with particular reference to practice and experience in Africa. Specific examples are given of the practice of Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.
This article investigates the issues of responsibility relating to the problem of child soldiers, in particular with respect to practice and experience in Africa. After preliminary remarks on the approach of international humanitarian law to the definition of a child, the first part of the article discusses the prohibitions on recruiting children and on the participation of children in hostilities as rules of international law. The second part examines the United Nations Security Council’s approach to the issue of the responsibility of States and armed groups for violations of these rules. The individual criminal responsibility of the recruiters is then considered, in particular with a view to establishing whether the crime of recruiting and using child soldiers is customary in nature. The fourth and last part of the article examines the dilemma of the criminal responsibility of children for crimes under international law and the practice of Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.