The Exclusion of Criminal Responsibility of Combatants who were Illegally Recruited as Children

Laura Acosta Zárate

The scientific purpose of this research is to explore, from a legal, criminological and international human rights law perspective, the extent to which children who have been exposed to the impact of war can be held blameworthy. Therefore, this research project will explore the extent to which those who participated in hostilities as children and adolescents understand and acknowledge the wrongfulness of their participation in hostilities. In order to do this, it is necessary to review the relevant stages at which violence can have a significant impact. The significance of these impacts on their understanding of wartime actions are decisive in the determination of their culpability. According to that understanding, the study seeks to analyze how risk factors along the three phases of a child soldier’s life impact the awareness of the prohibition and the willingness to proceed with the criminal action. Moreover, the study aims to explore the alternatives to criminal punishment that this group of former combatants could receive for their participation in hostilities or the commission of crimes. Having identified the risk factors that were present throughout the combatants’ upbringing, it will be possible to determine how best to address their impact on their lives and behaviour. Likewise, the study will also seek to review the way in which a model of exclusion of culpability is based on the lack of understanding of wrongdoing can be contemplated by judicial bodies such as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace in Colombia.