Vision GRAM-International is a member of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC)
Children caught in the cross fire are murdered, maimed, and raped. And they are also used by armed groups as porters, soldiers and front-line combatants, kidnapped as sex slaves and forced into marriage. Children are easily pressured and manipulated into themselves committing grave crimes, alienating them from their families and communities.
Hundreds of thousands of children around the world—some as young as eight—are forced to serve as soldiers for governments and non-state armed groups in conflicts around the world. The age old problem is a driver of conflict in its own right. This brutal crime exacerbates the already devastating toll on children in situations of armed conflict, forcing them to participate in unimaginable acts of violence and robbing them of their innocence and their future, along with that of their communities.
The enlistment and recruitment of children under fifteen, or using them to participate actively in hostilities are war crimes under the ICC Rome Statute. The prosecution of child soldier war crimes has been central to the prosecution strategy of the ICC OTP in its first trials.
In 2012, in the Court’s first trial and verdict, ICC judges found Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga guilty of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them in hostilities in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2002-03. In March 2015, the ICC Appeals Chamber set out five key principles for reparations. Judges decided that reparations would be awarded collectively given the potential number of victims, with former child soldiers recruited by Lubanga among those standing to benefit.
They also stated that all victims are to be treated fairly and equally, that reparations should include reintegration of former child soldiers and be gender inclusive.
In 2016, the OTP charged the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen with 70 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in northern Uganda in 2002. The charges included the forced enlistment and use of child soldiers under the age of fifteen years. This trails marks the first time that a former child soldier is prosecuted at the ICC. Ongwen was recruited into the ranks of the LRA himself when he was at around 10 years old.