Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Relations

First Advisor's Name

Harry Gould

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Benjamin Smith

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Markus Thiel

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Susanne Zwingel

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


International Criminal Law, Children's Rights, Criminal Responsibility, Special Court for Sierra Leone, Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility, Minimum Age of Legal Recruitment

Date of Defense



The revision of laws and the application of culpability to those most responsible for serious humanitarian law violations has functioned as a necessary condition for achieving peace in most post-war societies. However, there is an embarrassing silence when it comes to addressing the question of whether children are to be subjected to the principle of individual criminal responsibility. As morally controversial as it is, the question remains fundamental. Unfortunately, children have been involved in armed conflicts, as victims primarily, but not exclusively. Children are among those accused of having committed brutal and terrible international crimes in times of armed conflict when part of armed groups or armed forces. And with no consensus within the international community regarding their status within International Criminal Law — no established law within International Law and no consistent practice among states on the issue— the problem of criminal accountability of children accused of international crimes remains unanswered.

The current work conducts a legal positivist analysis with the focus of investigating the contribution of the Special Court for Sierra Leone to the current debate on children’s criminal responsibility under International Criminal Law. Among significant contributions, the Statute of the Special Court brought one interesting innovation to the debate on children’s potential criminal responsibility. Juveniles starting at age fifteen would be considered viable for prosecution if among those most responsible for the Special Court, as established in Article 7.1. The above innovation translates into two essential contributions to the debate on children criminal responsibility for international crimes: first the Special Court was the first international court to elect a minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) at age fifteen to be operational within the scope of the court. Secondly, and equally important, the court reflected the position that children, after the stipulated MACR would be considered, at least a priori, viable subjects of the international criminal system.





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