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Abstract

This paper calls for a clarification of the law and a re-evaluation of the status of children who are participating in hostilities by highlighting that any fruitful debate on child soldiers needs to go beyond the binary and limited discussion on whether such children are merely victims or perpetrators. The author focuses on the principles defined by International Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Law as to the distinction between “direct” and “active” participation to hostilities and argues that such distinction is ambiguous and inapplicable to the specific context of child soldiering. This paper concludes by emphasizing the necessity to reimagine the status of child soldiers by paying closer attention to the special protection afforded to all children under fifteen during armed conflicts. The author demonstrates that child soldiers retain their status as children thanks to their special protection that challenges the distinction between combatants and civilians under International Humanitarian Law.

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