It is estimated that worldwide tens of thousands of children are associated with armed forces and groups. Whether they have been forcefully integrated into these groups or have voluntarily joined their ranks, the reality is that such children are exposed to high levels of violence. Their roles are varied, ranging from taking a direct part in the hostilities to being used for domestic chores or sexual purposes. Regardless of their roles, they will witness abuse, torture, death, killing, sexual violence, etc and, in many cases, they will be the instigators and perpetrators of such violence. Some will face justice for the crimes they have committed. However, in a world where justice is essentially binary, the phenomenon of child soldiers cannot be properly dealt with because international criminal law is primarily based on a victim-perpetrator dichotomy. Moreover, child soldiers blur the established moral norm that divides those caught in an armed conflict between, on the one hand, innocent and pure victims and, on the other, evil perpetrators. Most importantly, they shatter the binary model of adults-bad and children-good that dominates the modern legal discourse. The classic paradigms of post-conflict criminal justice are no doubt disrupted. Using the example of Ongwen, a former child soldier found guilty by the International Criminal Court of numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity committed as an adult, this paper argues that, as we seek justice, we need to think of where we situate justice, and this means asking some fundamental questions: what is justice? why are we seeking justice? for whom? and for what?
Quenivet, N. (2022, August). Disrupting classic paradigms of justice after an armed conflict: The child soldier phenomenon. Presented at Situating Justice in Armed Conflict: Can there Be Just Wars?, Indian Law Institute, New Delhi, India