Court convicts over child soldiers

In a ground-breaking move, the war crimes court for Sierra Leone has handed down the first-ever convictions by a UN-backed tribunal for the crime of recruiting and using child soldiers. Thousands of children were used by all sides during Sierra Leone’s brutal 11-year conflict, which ended in 2002. They were often forcibly recruited, given drugs and used to commit atrocities. Thousands of girls were also forced to become soldiers and often subjected to sexual exploitation.

In Freetown in June, the Special Court for Sierra Leone found three men from the rebel Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu) guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international law, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

‘The use of child soldiers is a particularly horrific crime. These children should have been learning how to read, not how to shoot an AK-47,’ says Jo Becker from Human Rights Watch. ‘We hope that the Special Court’s decision will protect children in other parts of the world from suffering what so many Sierra Leonean children were forced to endure.’

New Internationalist issue 404 magazine cover This article is from the September 2007 issue of New Internationalist.
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