Matthew Happold
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The responsibility of child soldiers for war crimes
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This chapter considers the consequences of children's mental and moral immaturity for their criminal responsibility for their actions, and the availability of a defence of duress in respect of child soldiers' responsibility for atrocities, given that their participation in hostilities is frequently coerced. It shows that international law provides only vague guidelines with regard to the minimum age of criminal responsibility and only permits duress as a defence to international crimes in very limited circumstances. The chapter looks at the scope of the defence of intoxication, although it will be seen quickly that this defence raises fewer issues, as it applies to children in much the same manner as it does to adults. In his report on the establishment of a Special Court, the UN Secretary-General acknowledged the difficulty of prosecuting child soldiers for war crimes and crimes against humanity, given their dual status as both victims and perpetrators.

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