The UN expert on children and armed conflict testified before the International Criminal Court on Thursday in the trial against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a former militia leader from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Radhika Coomaraswamy observed that this is the first case at the international level to define the framework of the crime relating to conscripting, enlisting and using children in armed conflict.
She told the court that the changing nature of armed conflict has resulted in a high level of child soldier recruitment.
Speaking specifically about Africa, Ms. Coomaraswamy noted that the proliferation of small arms over the past two decades has meant that more young people are being drafted into armed groups:
" According to child protection partners, it takes a child about 45 minutes to master an AK-47. And therefore, it is something they can use. Where weapons were heavier and where things were of different order in terms of traditional warfare, this was not the case."
Ms. Coomaraswamy is an expert witness in the case against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, who is facing war crimes charges for allegedly using children during the conflict which began in 1999 in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The trial began in January 2009 at the International Criminal Court, located in The Hague. Three victims are also expected to testify over the course of the next week.
Dianne Penn, United Nations Radio