Challenges to Adjudication and Investigation
Edited by Fausto Pocar, Marco Pedrazzi and Micaela Frulli
Chapter 7: The enlistment, conscription and use of child soldiers as war crimes
The general perception of the need to employ particularly high standards to protect children is contradicted when children are utilized as combatants in the most risky situations and by the related, unabashed exploitation of their erratic combat behavior in the conduct of hostilities. Several features about child soldiers encourage the proliferation of their use in contemporary conflicts. While children have always, to some extent, participated in armed conflicts, their role in such conflicts has changed greatly. In the past adulthood and the ability to bear arms were to a large extent interconnected. Today technological developments have made lightweight automatic weapons available worldwide at relatively cheap prices; children are now able to participate in combat on a more equal footing with adult combatants. Thus the direct participation of children as combatants in armed conflicts is increasing compared to some of their more classical uses such as espionage, communication or de-mining.
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