Court/Judicial body:The Special Court for Sierra Leone
Date:31 May 2004
Instrument(s) cited:Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone
In this case, the Special Court Prosecutor charged Sierra Leonean politician Sam Hinga Norman with war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the recruitment of child soldiers. Norman argued that the Special Court could not try him for recruiting child soldiers because it was not a crime under international law during the years that the Prosecutor cited, beginning with the Special Court’s jurisdiction in 1996. The Appeals Chamber, however, found that a prohibition on child recruitment had become international custom and law even before 1996, citing the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Geneva Convention, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, among other legal instruments. Even though none of these Conventions expressly prohibited the recruitment of child soldiers in 1996, the Chamber noted that “a norm need not be expressly stated in an international convention for it to crystallize as a crime under customary international law.” The Chamber noted that the protection of children is a fundamental guarantee, and therefore violating that guarantee by recruiting child soldiers resulted in individual criminal responsibility. Following on this ruling, the charges against Norman for recruiting child soldiers could stand, and proceedings against him were allowed to continue.
Link to full judgement:The full judgment is available in four parts at: