This is a very difficult question to answer in simple terms.

International human rights and child protection experts generally recognise that children used for military purposes are first and foremost victims of abuses of their human rights, and that and that states must prioritise the prosecution of those who unlawfully recruit and use them.

Child Soldiers International believes that children should never be prosecuted solely for their association with armed forces or groups. However, when children are accused of committing crimes considered to be the most serious under international law, and where children have reached an age of criminal responsibility, then excluding them from criminal responsibility may deny justice to their victims and may also not be in the child’s own best interests. If a child is prosecuted, then he or she must be afforded all the guarantees and protection of international juvenile justice standards.