Special Court of Sierra Leone, Prosecutor v. Sam Hinga Norman, 31 May 2004, No. SCSL-2004-14-AR72(E)
Direct resolution of a dispute on the basis of international law
Prohibition of recruitment of children under the age of 15 as part of customary international law prior to 1996/ Direct resolution of a dispute on the basis of international law
Mr. Norman was charged before the Special Court of Sierra Leone for crimes under Article 4(c) of the Court’s Statute giving the Court the power to prosecute persons for conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups, using them to participate actively in hostilities that had been committed since 30 November 1996. He claimed that the Court lacked jurisdiction, since the crime of child recruitment was not part of customary international law at the times relevant to the indictment. The Court considered several international instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and observed that prior to 30 November 1996 the prohibition on child recruitment had crystallized as customary international law. It strengthened its reasoning by referring to Articles 2 and 3 of ILO Convention No. 182, and observing that “by the time Article 2 was formulated, the debate had moved on from the question whether the recruitment of children under the age of 15 was prohibited or indeed criminalized, and the focus had shifted to the next step in the development of international law, namely raising the standard to include all children under the age of 18."3
2 ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182); African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, 1990; Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, 1998; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, 2000.