Practice Relating to Rule 137. Participation of Child Soldiers in Hostilities
Côte d’Ivoire’s Teaching Manual (2007) provides in Book III, Volume 1 (Instruction of first-year trainee officers):
One of the especially tragic aspects of modern conflicts is the active participation of children (boys and girls) in hostilities. This phenomenon seems to be linked less to cultural traditions than to reasons of opportunism or lack of soldiers; in many cases, these arguments are only excuses or forms of abuse from the side of the authorities, which force children to do the work of adults.
These child soldiers only have a rudimentary education or no education at all and are often under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Of course, they can constitute valorous and formidable enemies. In that case, they must be fought just like all combatants.
However, in case of capture, they must be treated with special consideration. The treatment of children aged between 15 and 18 years must be as close as possible to that of children under 15 years.
In Book III, Volume 2 (Instruction of second-year trainee officers), the Teaching Manual provides:
By “child”, one generally means any person who has not attained the age of 18 years. However, in the law of armed conflicts, different provisions apply to children of less than 15 years and to those between 15 and 18 years.
Additional Protocol I specifies that children have the right to the care and aid they require because of their age. Children who have not attained the age of 15 years must not be recruited into the armed forces, nor directly participate in hostilities.
Côte d’Ivoire’s Penal Code (1981), as amended in 2015, states:
Whoever commits a war crime is punished with life imprisonment.
War crimes are:
2 - other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict, within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts:
- conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities;
4 - other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in armed conflicts not of an international character, within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts:
- conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities;
The provisions of paragraphs 3 and 4 of the above article 139 do not apply to situations of internal disturbances and tensions, such as riots, isolated and sporadic acts of violence or other acts of a similar nature.