East African Journal of Peace and Human Rights

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The post-conflict treatment of child soldiers: A study of Liberian child soldiers

L Shorr


The phenomenon of child soldiers has historically been addressed by
international instruments and institutions with a uniformly preventative stance.
Such a universalist approach has mainly defined child soldiers by age and
applied an unvarying standard of prevention in response to every occurrence
of child soldiering. This article takes issue with this universalism as neither
deterring the use of children in conflict nor providing appropriate post-conflict
reintegration of child soldiers. The article instead provides a critical pluralist
approach to the post-conflict treatment of child soldiers. In particular, the
discussion focuses on the potential options for handling former Liberian child
combatants who fought in the Liberian civil war. The case of Liberia poses
an opportunity to institutionalize the first active juvenile chamber for the
prosecution and rehabilitation of former child soldiers. Such a
chamber–modeled after the framework set forth by former United Nations
Secretary-General Kofi Annan in response in Sierra Leone–would incorporate
principles of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) to
encourage both domestic political transition and a changed understanding of
what is a child soldier and what constitutes their appropriate post-conflict

East African Journal of Peace and Human rights Vol. 13 (1) 2007: pp. 1-29
AJOL African Journals Online