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Targeting Child Soldiers: Striking a Balance between Humanity and Military Necessity

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Children are often the victims of armed conflict. One way in which international law seeks to protect them is by prohibiting their recruitment as child soldiers. Once recruited, however, the question arises as to whether they may or should be targeted and killed in the same manner as an adult in the same position. In this respect, there is relatively little discussion as to what the law is, and – aside from a 2013 think-piece by Frédéric Mégret – even less about what the law should be. This article attempts to kick-start that debate. A survey of international law confirms that child combatants and participants in hostilities may be targeted in the same manner as adults. Mégret’s proposed reform, whereby child soldiers would only be targetable while participating in hostilities, is problematic, but child soldiers should arguably be entitled to some form of additional protection. As such, this article proposes that child soldiers under the age of 12 only be targetable in self-defence, a reform which would better balance the competing considerations of humanity and military necessity.

Affiliations: 1: LL.B. Honours, Faculty of Law, University of Western Australia, packsrp@gmail.com

10.1163/18781527-00701009
/content/journals/10.1163/18781527-00701009
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/content/journals/10.1163/18781527-00701009
2016-03-14
2018-06-23

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