THE USE OF CHILD soldiers IN ARMED CONFLICT AS WAR CRIME UNDER international LAW
This dissertation, titled “The Use of Child Soldiers in Armed Conflict as a War Crime under International Law,” evaluates the legality of atrocities committed against children during armed wars, particularly as forced active participants. This is seen through the lens of the threat being a kind of child abuse and exploitation of such youngsters, as well as how international law combats such illegality and brings their commanders and recruiters to account. Despite a plethora of national and international regulations that ban and safeguard against the unlawful use of children as active participants in armed conflicts, it has been noted that children are compelled to participate in armed conflicts around the globe. The illicit employment of child soldiers has serious repercussions for both the children and the larger community. In addition to inflicting fatalities and injuries, this threat depletes the society's true resource and future – its children. This study's objectives include, among others, expanding access to adequate information and expertise on the protection of children's basic human rights during armed conflicts and how the law dispels the aura of impunity surrounding their recruiters and commanders. This also necessitates an evaluation of the degree of responsibility, if any, of child soldiers in the conduct of heinous crimes during armed wars. Our research indicated that this threat affects both industrialized and emerging nations, although to varied degrees. The research also revealed that there are several rules and regulations safeguarding against the unlawful employment of child soldiers; consequently, it is the absence of political will and the non-implementation of duties under these laws that has given these atrocities and war crimes an air of impunity. According to our study, individual criminal culpability for war crimes is independent of a person's rank, and international humanitarian law holds nations accountable for grave crimes and reparations. Child soldiers may also be accountable for their acts and wrongdoings, however their age may be a mitigating factor when the subject of their liability is addressed. Therefore, perpetrators of heinous crimes must be punished to appease the victims and deter the conduct of future atrocities; governments, their people, and the international community have this obligation. As a way of battling, preventing, and minimizing the threat posed by war crimes and atrocities, it is argued that this may also be accomplished or decreased via non-criminal modalities of justice as an alternative and supplement to the criminal justice system.
Armed wars with devastation have existed from the dawn of humanity.
Since the dawn of time, there have been readily available light weapons and much more devastating weapons, leaving behind a great number of injured, crippled, and dead. Children are the biggest and most helpless members of society around the globe, and it was always considered that adults had the best interests of children at heart, therefore there was no need to consider children's rights or protection. This utopian view of the adult-child connection disregarded the harsh reality of our contemporary environment. It is nearly impossible to watch international television networks such as CNN or BBC without hearing or witnessing the plight of children in some corner of the globe.
On these worldwide television channels, the eyes of young soldiers with oversized AK-47s from war-torn nations implore the world to cease these interminable and pointless conflicts. Fortunately, Nigeria has not suffered similar tragedies, despite having to deal with refugees from war-torn nations and enduring her own communal, ethnic, and sectarian conflicts. The insurgency in the Niger Delta comes to mind; in all of these scenarios, innocent children are the ones who suffer the most. In armed conflicts, children are increasingly becoming the primary targets of hostilities and acts of violence. During armed situations, children are often in more risk than adults; the danger and kind of injury they face are unique to them owing to their innocence, susceptibility, and age.
To avoid the use of children and assure their safety during armed conflicts, and most importantly to bring to justice all those responsible for such heinous deeds, it is necessary to develop preventative and countermeasures. This work is an investigation into the consequences of traumatic man-made actions that were spawned by flawed leadership and greed for money and power, as well as the political failure of our leaders to prevent the tragedy that has befallen an entire, defenseless population, and how international justice is confronting the aura of impunity of all those involved in this unlawful creation, known as Child Soldiers or Child Combatants (which shall be used interchangeably throughout this research work).
1.1. STATEMENT OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
The employment of juvenile soldiers challenges moral and legal standards.
governing rules for the conduct of combat. The direct engagement of children in armed conflicts has devastating effects on their development and on society as a whole. 1 It is not limited to any continent or area of the globe, but Nigeria has been spared these tragedies. However, there is a dearth of relevant authority on the topic in either our public or private libraries, and those discovered on the internet are either limited or prohibitively expensive.
The majority of published literature on child soldiers did not address the accountability of child soldiers, their recruiters, and their commanders. In light of the above, numerous research problems cry for answers: Who are the opponents? Are kid soldiers responsible for their conduct? What are the permitted
1Sesay, A., Civil Wars, Child Soldiers & Post Conflict Peace Building in West Africa, college Press, Ibadan, Nigeria, 2003, p. 4 (henceforth referred to as Sesay's Civil Wars).
restrictions on the employment of underage soldiers? Are child soldiers' recruiters and leaders liable? How can international justice battle the air of impunity among child army recruiters and commanders? This study's foundation consists of answers to these and other crucial issues.
1.2. OBJECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH
This study seeks to examine how international law is utilized to defend the basic human rights of children during armed conflicts, particularly when they are active combatants. And how it has also been utilized to confront and oppose the horrors of their recruiters, leaders, and perpetrators of these heinous atrocities in order to dispel the air of impunity that surrounds such acts. We will seek to address the aforementioned questions, as well as many more, given in our description of the study topic, with reference to applicable legislation and practical applications. We will then provide our results and suggestions on the concerns highlighted.
1.3. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Many victims of atrocities were denied justice for their crimes, as well as others.
During armed conflicts, human rights breaches continue to be terrible. The air of impunity surrounding past atrocities has fostered the conduct of additional heinous crimes, which must be punished. 2 It is observed that little study has been conducted on how perpetrators of war crimes are punished in order to avoid future atrocities and aid in reducing and ending them.
An Overview of International Criminal Law: The Work of the Rwandan Tribunal
THE USE OF CHILD SOLDIERS IN ARMED CONFLICT AS WAR CRIME UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW