Research Handbook on Child Soldiers
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Research Handbook on Child Soldiers

Edited by Mark A. Drumbl and Jastine C. Barrett

Child soldiers remain poorly understood and inadequately protected, despite significant media attention and many policy initiatives. This Research Handbook aims to redress this troubling gap. It offers a reflective, fresh and nuanced review of the complex issue of child soldiering. The Handbook brings together scholars from six continents, diverse experiences, and a broad range of disciplines. Along the way, it unpacks the life-cycle of youth and militarization: from recruitment to demobilization to return to civilian life. The overarching aim of the Handbook is to render the invisible visible – the contributions map the unmapped and chart new directions. Challenging prevailing assumptions and conceptions, the Research Handbook on Child Soldiers focuses on adversity but also capacity: emphasising the resilience, humanity, and potentiality of children affected (rather than ‘afflicted’) by armed conflict.
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Chapter 16: Child soldiers in international courtrooms: unqualified perpetrators, erratic witnesses and irreparable victims?

Barbora Holá and Thijs B. Bouwknegt


International criminal trials deal with perpetrators and victims of mass atrocity crimes. Child soldiers have appeared in international courtrooms as perpetrators, witnesses and victims. However, these various encounters were often inappropriate, uncomfortable and uneasy. This chapter provides a comprehensive analysis of child soldiers in international courtrooms, focusing on the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the International Criminal Court. It analyses trials with and about child soldiers, describes applicable legal rules, discusses existing practices and identifies core challenges. The chapter unpacks an empirically grounded overview of law’s encounters with child soldiers and then normatively problematizes that encounter. In both international and internationalized courtrooms, child soldiers have been characterized as unqualified perpetrators, erratic witnesses and irreparable victims.

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