By Susan Kendi
On February 12, 2018, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a statement on the International Day against the use of Child Soldiers.
In the statement, the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda acknowledged that millions of children around the world still continue to suffer in war and conflict. She bemoaned the fact that every year a number of children are killed, maimed, orphaned or subjected to unspeakable abuse and their lives disrupted.
Bensouda believes that domestic and international law should serve as a basis of protection to respond to the unfortunate situation faced by children in war, and should be effectively utilized to address the series of grave crimes committed against children including during conflict.
Referencing the Thomas Lubanga Dyilo case, the Prosecutor assured the world that the ICC will keep playing its role in holding accountable the perpetrators of the atrocities against children including those who conscript minors as fighters. Referencing the Thomas Lubanga Dyilo case
The OTP’s ongoing effort to punish those who use children in conflict is hard to miss. It includes the Dominic Ongwen and Bosco Ntaganda cases both of which illustrate how the Rome Statute framework can be used to protect children.
One of the key strategic goals of the Office of the Prosecutor is the investigation and prosecution of atrocity crimes against and affecting children. The Office of the Prosecution has also adopted a comprehensive Policy on Children to give practical guidance and clarity on how to address these crimes.
The ICC prosecutor wrote that she hopes that the measures taken by the Court communicate that crimes against children in conflict, including forcing them to bear arms, to kill and get killed, are unacceptable. Bensouda stressed that they are grave crimes, for which there must be accountability.
Bensouda urged that people should resolve to protect children in armed conflict and at all levels harmonize efforts to maximize the impact of the fight to stop conscription of juveniles.
“A crime against a child is an offence against all of humanity; it is an affront to our basic tenets of human decency. Only with collective and unified action can we truly make a difference.”
The OTP, Bensouda wrote in conclusion, is ready to work with all relevant actors to confront the challenge of the use of children during war and conflict.
“Our children are our future. If we fail them, we have failed humanity itself…Empathy alone with the suffering of boys and girls in times of conflict is not enough. We must act.”