IJ №4 (24) 2017
The sexual exploitation of child soldiers by their armed groups as a war crime

In its Judgment from 15 June 2017, the International Criminal Court confirmed its jurisdiction in the case of Bosco Ntaganda and indicated that the sexual exploitation and rape of child soldiers by members of their own armed group constitute a war crime. This decision of the ICC provoked much controversy among experts in the field of international criminal law. Some experts consider this Judgment to be a real breakthrough in the protection of child soldiers from sexual slavery by their own armed group, which before remained “invisible” for international criminal law, while many child soldiers, mostly girls, suffer from violations of their right to sexual integrity. Others accuse the Court of abuse of power and the “blurring” of the definition of a war crime, in an attempt to interpret international humanitarian law based on provisions that in reality it does not contain. This commentary examines the definition of a war crime under the ICC Statute and the validity of this judgment. Additionally, the connection of this case with the first Court’s decision on the issue of child soldiers in the Lubanga case is considered. The commentary covers the problem of the active participation of child soldiers in hostilities, the expansion of the scope of applying the norms on war crimes, and judicial activism. The issue of active participation of child soldiers in hostilities itself generates much controversy since the recognition of active parti­cipation protects them from certain crimes, but denies protection from others. The ICC attempted to elect the most advantageous position for the protection of child soldiers, but what consequences this entails is still unknown.

About the author 
Kristina Russkikh – Postgraduate student, Faculty of Law, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia.

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