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ILJ Online

ILJ Online is the online component of Fordham International Law Journal.

ICC's First Child Soldier's Trial

The status of child soldiers is a complex legal issue raising the question of responsibility in International Criminal Law. [1] For the first time, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is trying a child soldier named Dominic Ongwen who was recruited by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and became one of its leaders. [2] [3] But should the legal status of former child soldiers be that of victim or perpetrator? How can they be rehabilitated to their communities following war? Ongwen was forced to commit crimes, but proved himself loyal by following orders and became a leader. [4] [5] He allegedly orchestrated attacks against civilians , enrolled child soldiers , and perpetrated forced marriages and rapes. [6] [7] [8] However, the judges face a legal dilemma since they have to decide whether Ongwen, a former victim and perpetrator, can be held accountable for the crimes committed. [9] If Ongwen is found guilty it will set a unique precedent. [10]

Yet, if child soldiers were considered perpetrators, it could stigmatize them. Not considering their pasts, as victims, could lead ultimately to condemning them unjustly. However, some NGOs are in favor of not taking their pasts as victims into account, to avoid an exclusion of responsibility at trial. [11]

Children involved in conflicts face difficulties in reintegrating within their communities and heavy stigmatization. [12] Specifically designed education could help their reinsertion and better inform the community about such difficulties. Geoffrey, another LRA child soldier who participated in the documentary “Wrong Elements”, is finishing his studies to become a professor.[13] He considers education a key point in preventing children participating in armed conflict to go back to war. [14]

A version of this civil reintegration model has been tested in Norway where inmates are being granted access to education training and jobs. [15] The results are excellent in terms of rehabilitation. [16]

This post is a student blog post and in no way represents the views of the Fordham International Law Journal.