The Special Court for Sierra Leone: ‘Crystallisation’ and Child Soldiers

  • Julie McBride


While it is the contention of the author that the crime of child soldier recruitment entered into existence in 1998 when the Rome Statute was drafted—as it was not until then that the crime obtained a clear mens rea and actus reus—the Special Court, in the Preliminary Motion in Prosecutor v Sam Hinga Norman, ruled that the crime had already ‘crystallised’ as a crime in international customary law. This issue of crystallisation had direct relevance for the question of individual criminal responsibility, and, in attempting to determine when the mens rea and actus reus of the crime were formulated, marks a critical moment in the development of the crime. It therefore also has implications for international criminal law more generally, as it concerns the precise moment when a treaty provision can be regarded as an international crime. This chapter also provides a background to the Sierra Leone civil war and the establishment of the Special Court, in particular the drafting of Article 4 of its Statute, providing for the war crime of child recruitment. It also assesses the approach of the Special Court towards the question of prosecuting child soldiers, and its treatment of child soldier witnesses.


Security Council International Criminal Court Appeal Chamber Rome Statute Trial Chamber 
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Copyright information

© T. M. C. Asser press, The Hague, The Netherlands, and the author 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.AmsterdamThe Netherlands

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