Reparations and child soldiers in Africa: the legal regime of reparations for former child soldiers under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The involvement of children to fight in armed conflicts remains one of the main challenges towards the full realization of children's rights on the African continent. Despite a substantive legal framework affording protection and prohibiting the enlisting and recruitment of child soldiers, this practice remains prevalent in many parts of Africa particularly in the Great Lakes Region. As a result of their childhood and the traumatic events they are exposed to during armed conflicts, children inexorably suffer from many forms of harm including physical, mental and psychological harm. Addressing this harm as a matter of urgency is crucial for the proper and effective reintegration of these children into society. The Rome Statute departs from the silence of many international criminal law instruments which focus exclusively on the prosecution and sentencing of criminals overlooking the needs of the victims of international crimes by offering redress. It introduces a new and unique reparative system that aims at providing redress to the victims of international crimes within the courts' jurisdiction. This reparative regime which is still in its early life stages faces many challenges and uncertainties. In its first case dealing with principles relating to reparations, the International Criminal Court (ICC) showed these challenges and the difficulty of establishing permanent guidelines on future reparations to former child soldiers who are victims of the international crime(s) of the enlisting and recruitment to fight as combatants. Clear principles can help current and future victims by having an insightful and realistic expectation of the modalities and the scope of the reparation award they can get from the ICC.