ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

Victims or Villains? Dealing with Child Soldiers through Transitional Justice

Rachel Anderson
University of Aberdeen
Rachel Anderson
University of Aberdeen
Open Panel

Abstract

Transitional Justice mechanisms have become part of the international post-conflict reconstruction ‘toolkit’ for fostering peace in post-conflict societies. In particular, ‘truth recovery’ mechanisms such as Truth and Reconciliation commissions and ‘War Crimes’ Tribunals have been highlighted as formal mechanisms which enable victims of political violence to obtain the recognition and closure that they require in order for post-conflict societies to move forward towards ‘positive peace’. ‘Victim’ as a category is, however, ambiguous and some ‘perpetrators’ can be portrayed as ‘victims’. Child soldiers are an under-researched case in this area. When dealing with child soldiers ‘truth recovery’ can be problematic. Child soldiers straddle the victim/perpetrator divide. Many child soldiers commit heinous crimes, often against their own families and communities and yet many of these soldiers have been abducted, drugged, and forced to fight. Can these children, therefore, really be held responsible for their crimes? Or should they be viewed exclusively as victims of the conflict? Focusing on the post-conflict reconstruction process in Sierra Leone, this paper will explore the problematic nature of truth recovery in the aftermath of conflicts where children have been major participants. The paper will look at issues such as who decides who is a victim and who is a perpetrator? If children are not to be held responsible for their actions during the conflict how do their victims receive closure? And what is the impact of these decisions on the ability of post-conflict societies to move towards positive peace?