Crimes Against Child Soldiers in Armed Conflict Situations: Application and Limits of International Humanitarian Law


Wells, Sarah L. 2004. “Crimes Against Child Soldiers in Armed Conflict Situations: Application and Limits of International Humanitarian Law.” Tulane Journal of International and Comparative Law 12: 287-305.

Author: Sarah L. Wells


This article examines the application of international humanitarian law to crimes committed against child soildiers during the ten-year civil war in Sierra Leone. The author suggests that while historically, developments in international law took account of the vulnerability of children in wartime, international humanitarian law maintains that dated categories of protection do not reflect conditions of modern armed conflicts. The author argues that, instead, the experiences of child soldiers suggest that international legal prohibitions on the involvement of children in combat provide vastly inadequate legal protection. The author relies in this respect on research on crimes committed against child combatants in Sierra Leone and the limitations of international humanitarian law in relation to the prosecution of those crimes. The author argues that in order to remain relevant and effective, new developments in the field of international humanitarian law must address dated and inaccurate distinctions, which act to preclude needed legal protection of those among the most vulnerable in wartime. 

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Gender, International Law, International Humanitarian Law (IHL), Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2004

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