Chapter 15: Crimes committed by child soldiers: an argument for coherence
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International jurisprudence does not identify an accepted age at which criminal responsibility begins, nor does it clearly answer the question of whether international law recognizes any minimum age of criminal responsibility at all. Despite this uncertainty, there is an inchoate (and increasing) de facto recognition of the position that child soldiers will not be prosecuted internationally for international crimes committed during conflict. This chapter sets out the framework of instruments that regulate the criminal responsibility of child soldiers and traces the growing acceptance of the norm that children will not be prosecuted for international crimes. The chapter observes that there has been little scrutiny of this emerging standard by international lawyers. As a result, serious questions may be posed about its jurisprudential foundations. In that context, the development of a more coherent position is urged. Looking forward, the chapter submits that child soldiers should not be tried and held criminally responsible before international courts or tribunals. However, there is merit in a formal and consistent process for responding to their crimes as a path towards recognizing the extent of their offences and victimization.

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