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Child Soldiers (International Law)

This guide links to books, articles, databases, and websites that facilitate research into the status of child soldiers under international law.


While the recruitment and use of child soldiers may seem unconscionable on its face, an advocacy group says that about 50 nations still use child soldiers. A book on the topic notes that "little drummer boys" as young as 8 were used in the United State's Civil War. The international norms do seem to changing in favor of prohibiting the practice and punishing those who use children aged 14 and under as soldiers during active hostilities.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol regarding children in armed conflict are examples of proactive attempts under international law to protect such children.

The International Criminal Court found Thomas Lubanga guilty of the war crime of enlisting, conscripting, and using children under age 15 in hostilities. He was sentenced to 14 years in jail. The Special Court for Sierra Leone prosecuted all four factions, including Liberian Head of State Charles Taylor, in the country's decade-long hostilities for violating international humanitarian law by using child soldiers.