THE USE OF CHILD SOLDIERS IN ARMED CONFLICT AS WAR CRIME UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW
Armed conflicts with devastating effects have been part of mankind since time immemorial and these days, there are easily accessible light weapons and even more destructive weapons, leaving a large number of the wounded, maimed and dead in their wake. Children all over the world constitute the largest and most powerless members of the society and; it used to be assumed that adults had the best interests of children at heart and there was no need to think in terms of children’s rights or their protection. This idealized perception of adult-child relationship ignored the grim realities of our world today.It is virtually impossible to watch international television stations like Cable News Network (CNN) or British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) without hearing or seeing the sufferings of children in one part of the world or the other.
On these international television stations, the glares of child soldiers with their oversize ‘AK-47’ weapons from war torn countries, calls out to the world to end these endless and senseless wars. Luckily, Nigeria has not experienced these horrors although she had had to contend with refugees from war torn countries, faced her own various communal, ethnic and sectarian clashes. The Niger Delta insurgency readily comes to mind; and in all these situations, the people who are most affected are the innocent children. It is children who are increasingly becoming the principal victims of hostilities and acts of violence perpetrated in the course of armed conflicts. Children are often in greater danger than adults during armed conflicts – the danger and form of harm to which children are subjected to, is specific to them due to their innocence, vulnerability and age.
In order to prevent the use of children and ensure their protection during armed conflicts and most especially, to bring to justice all those engaged in such callous acts, preventive and counter measures must be perfected.This work is an inquiry into the consequences of traumatic man made actions which were borne out of flawed leadership and greed for money and power and, of political failure by our leaders to prevent the tragedy that has befallen an entire, defenseless population and; how international justice is confronting the aura of impunity to justice of all those involved in this unlawful creation, called Child Soldiers or Child Combatants (which shall be used interchangeably throughout this research work).