Posted by: bklunk | November 5, 2006

A Dilemma For Sure

xmd117 offers this interesting and troubline post:

Child Soldiers and the International Criminal Court
The Human Rights non-governmental organization Redress has recently created a report called “Victims, Perpetrators or Heroes? Child Soldiers before the International Criminal Court”. The report analysizes the International Criminal Court’s objectives to ensure child-sensitive investigations, trials, and solutions for children who are acknowledged under international law as victims, however, have also committed violent crimes, are safe. I learned a lot from this report and reccommend it to others to read as well, and one aspect from the report I must stress is its argument that targeting child soldiers against other victims of international crimes is wrong, because by suggesting one’s sufferings is more important than anothers makes their reintergration into suffering communities who have been stricken by violence more difficult because the inhabitants of these communities could see the child soldiers as perpetrators rather than victims.

Who should be held responsible for the outrages that had been committed by child soldiers who may not have freely chosen to take up arms or had the maturity to understand what they were doing but who nevertheless did terrible things?

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  1. Who do you hold responsible? In many of the cases of child soldiers, children were taken and forced to commit crimes against their own village. There is already going to be a level of mistrust and some children are not able to reintegrate into their own villages because of the acts that were committed. Who do you hold responsible is a difficult question? However, there are many more difficult questions related to this topic. How do you reintegrate children who have been trained to kill or commit crimes back into normal living settings? How do you follow and provide the needed support to these individuals throughout their lifetime? How do you fund the programs and support resources needed for these children? For those who have become adults but were subject to the lifestyle of child soldiers, what support do you provide for them? In the end, it’s not just an issue of who do you hold responsible for the acts that child soldiers committed. There’s a lifelong struggle that these child soldiers and the victims of their acts must face. How do you go about supporting both groups of people and keeping this type of thing from being passed on to further generations?

  2. I completely agree with the comment by Rachael. Because they are children, I would not hold them totally responsible for their actions. Many times they are taken from their homes at such an early age and trained to kill that this behavior is thought of, by them, as right. They were never given the chance to be brought up knowing right from wrong. I also agree that it will be near impossible to integrate these children into a society once they are not soldiers any longer. As Rachael stated, many times they have committed crimes against their own communities, communites that now shun them and want nothing to do with them due to their heinous acts. It would be easy to say that these children have been used for evil deeds and are now almost worthless within a civilized society; forgetting them may be easier then. However, they will still be out there, and without any sort of help and guidance they may continue to lead the lives they were taught as children instead of being brough back into society in as peaceful a manner as possible. I believe that we must way the odds: would it be better to not do anything, and perhaps let them start their own militias after being let go, or should we try to aid them in reintegrating into a community?

  3. I do agree that children cannot be held solely responsible for their actions. They were raised in environments that fully attributed to the way they behave and carry out their lives. The environment is the perpetrator, and the children are the victims of their specific environments. However, many of the children do not think like normal children due to the circumstances by which they grew up, and in turn think in a more mature capacity similar to that of adults. These children were forced to mature faster and make more difficult decisions with less physically developed minds. This makes it very difficult to convict and decide how to handle the situation. An eight-year-old American child compared to one of these who kills is vastly different. The eight year old American is most likely completely unsure of the situation, where as the other has lived in the situation and knows what they are doing. They are more or less carrying out their behaviours like adults. I do think that these objectives need to be case-specific. Some of the child soldiers are mature and have the sense to know what is happening, and others really are the victims. In the end they still need to be punished properly, not treated softly just as victims. This way they can effectively learn the wrongs and rights they weren’t taught during their earlier childhood.

  4. The actions of these child soldiers I believe should be held directly as the response to the instructions of their adult leaders. These child soldiers are exploited, and most of the time forced with the option of being killed, or taking up arms, and in no way have any real say in what they are doing. You’ll never see a group of these child soldiers leading one another into strategic placement of where they should move to best take out their opponent, thats the job of their adult leaders. So then why should they be tried as if they even have the knowledge to fully comprehend what they are doing. I mean i’m not a psychologist but I can look back at my own psyche as a young kid, and see how easily influenced to do things by elders i was, how should this be any different! I think the best solution for these young soldiers isn’t imprisonment for actions they can’t really even fully comprehend, but instead mental reconstruction to help them determine the true nature of what is right, and what is wrong.

  5. The actions of the child soldiers I believe are directly caused by their environment and adult leaders. These children not only committed horrible acts but were subjected to them as well. These children had no options. I don’t think they should be punished for what they were subjected to; however what is to be done with these children? Mental reconstruction, as mentioned above, is a nice idea. However, in Africa, that will never happen. These governments/militias, can barely afford to provide food and medical treatment, how will they provide psychological help? Will the world community step in? The option of imprisoning them is unreasonable as well because as mentioned before, these children were not in control of their situations. The dilemma of what to do with child soldiers that have committed horrible crimes is one that may not be answered soon, as the world is always slow in response to crises in Africa.

  6. I do not think that child soldiers should be held accountable for their actions. While their are many variables to each situation like the choice of the child, willingness, level of understanding of the acts committed, and the consequences of saying no, the one constant variable is that they are all children however that is being defined. Since we are focusing on children soldiers, we must recognize that in the United States children, or minors as they are often referred to, have a vastly different set of legal rights. Our society has accepted that we should be treating them differently than we treat adults and I see no difference in giving them special treatment as far as restricting their right to vote until age 18 and not holding them to blame for acts committed while soldiers in other countries. The fact that these child soldiers are not American citizens bares no relevance to me as I see the issue only as whether we should treat children differently. The answer is a clear yes to me.

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