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Full Access Justice for Child Soldiers? The RUF Trial of the Special Court for Sierra Leone

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Justice for Child Soldiers? The RUF Trial of the Special Court for Sierra Leone

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The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) was the primary agitator during the decade-long civil war that ravaged Sierra Leone. One of the hallmarks of RUF tactics was the abduction and military use of children. The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) issued an indictment against the high-command of the RUF. Each of the accused was charged with the enlistment, conscription or use of child soldiers. The Prosecutor v. Sesay, Kallon and Gbao case (RUF case) provides a cogent account of the crime of conscripting or using children younger than fifteen in hostilities. This paper tracks the development of the growing child soldier jurisprudence and plots the contribution of the RUF case. Specific emphasis is placed on the Court's application of abstract concepts to concrete situations, e.g. the determination whether a specific instance of child soldier use amounts to the child's 'active participation in hostilities'. The paper follows a progression whereby the chapeau requirements of Article 4 of the Statute of the SCSL are first assessed and thereafter the actus reus and mens rea elements of the substantive crime of enlisting, conscripting or using children in hostilities are examined in light of the RUF case.


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