Voluntary enlistment and conscription into armed forces; participation in hostilities

CRIN believes that military recruitment of children - whether voluntary or compulsory - violates their human rights. Children may have powerful motivations for wanting to join the army, for instance, because they have seen their friends or relatives sexually attacked or killed, or because of risk factors such as displacement and their socio-economic circumstances.

However, the State should never expect and train a child to kill and carry the psychological burden that such violence entails by recruiting them into their armed forces, even if direct participation in hostilities is reserved until they reach adulthood.

Furthermore, there are serious problems with how “informed consent” is obtained, including because of misleading marketing materials and targeting of the most disadvantaged children.  

Read more on page 6 of our discussion paper Age is Arbitrary: Discussion paper on setting minimum ages.

Access to justice

Children should be able to challenge the legality of their enlistment, including misleading recruitment advertisements, and violations of their rights once recruited. Recruitment of children under 15 is an international crime. National courts bear the primary responsibility for prosecuting international crimes, but when these are unable or unwilling to provide justice, international avenues can be used; indeed a number of international courts and tribunals have been set up over the last two decades to combat impunity and restore justice and accountability. The first ever verdict from the International Criminal Court against Thomas Lubanga for the war crime of enlisting and conscripting children is one example of how access to justice has been achieved in this context.

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