The Effects of the Lubanga Case on Understanding and Preventing Child Soldiering

Part of the Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law book series (YIHL, volume 15)


On March 14, 2012, a trial chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a rebel leader from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for child-soldier-related crimes. Some months later, Lubanga was sentenced to a prison term of fourteen years. On August 7, 2012, an ICC trial chamber issued its decision regarding the principles and procedures to be applied to reparations in the Lubanga case. This Article unpacks the relationships between the Lubanga proceedings and how the international community conceptualizes, and strives to prevent, child soldiering. This Article contends that the Lubanga proceedings reinforce, and incubate, a stylized portrayal of the child soldier as a faultless passive victim, psychologically devastated, and irreparably damaged. Although arguably facilitating criminal convictions of adult recruiters, these portrayals trigger a variety of troublesome externalities when it comes to the reintegration and rehabilitation of the former child soldiers and other youth (and adults) affected by conflict. This Article proceeds through several steps. First, it defines the term child soldier. Second, and drawing from the author’s prior work, it discusses how child soldiers are portrayed within the international legal imagination. Third, the on-the-ground realities of child soldiering are set out and contrasted with the prevailing imagery. The discussion, fourthly, then moves to a detailed analysis of the Lubanga trial and sentencing judgments, which are placed within broader discursive and socio-legal contexts. The Article concludes with discussion of the Lubanga reparations decision.


Child Soldiers War Crimes International Criminal Law International Criminal Court Atrocity Post-Conflict Justice Victims Reparations 


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  4. International Criminal Court (18 December 2012) ICC Trial Chamber II acquits Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. Accessed 3 March 2013.
  5. Schabas W (13 July 2012) Lubanga Sentenced to Fourteen Years. Accessed 16 July 2012.

Copyright information

© T.M.C. ASSER PRESS, The Hague, The Netherlands, and the author(s) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Transnational Law InstituteWashington and Lee UniversityLexingtonUSA

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