San Diego International Law Journal

Document Type



In May 2004, the Special Court for Sierra Leone issued a landmark decision finding that an individual may be held criminally responsible for the offense of recruiting child soldiers into armed conflict. As a hybrid tribunal established by the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone to try those who "bear the greatest responsibility" for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed during the country's civil war after November 1996, the Special Court is the first international criminal body to indict a person for the crime of recruiting and employing children in war. The decision in the case of Sam Hinga Norman now aligns this emerging doctrine of international humanitarian law with general international human rights protections, as well as domestic criminal law, and begins to extend the protective cover of criminal law to the horrific and all-too-common practice of impressing children into armed service.