Children and Justice During and in the Aftermath of Armed Conflict

Introduction

“How can we tell what happened to us? There are no words to describe what we have witnessed. What we saw, what we heard, what we did, and how it changed our lives, is beyond measure. We were murdered, raped, amputated, tortured, mutilated, beaten, enslaved and forced to commit terrible crimes.”
Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report for the Children of Sierra Leone

In modern day warfare, children, both girls and boys, are increasingly becoming the subject of military recruitment, targeted attacks, and sexual violence. The diversity of armed groups and the widespread and easy availability of small arms and light weapons have led to the recruitment and use of hundreds of thousands of child soldiers around the world. Children as young as eight are drawn into violence for a variety of reasons. Some are used by their commanders as frontline combatants, while others carry out support functions. During armed conflicts, many children are forced to witness or to take part in horrifying acts of violence. They suffer from being orphaned, raped, maimed and manipulated to give expression to the hatred of adults.2 Many have lost their families, as well as education opportunities, a chance to enjoy their childhood, and to be part of a community.