You are currently viewing the old version of the website.
From December 5, 2019 the website is available at: and
Follow Us

Institute for Law and Public Policy

Address: 129090, Moscow, Shchepkina str., 8

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 140, Moscow, 129090, Russia

Tel.: +7 (495) 608 6959, 608 6635; Fax: +7 (495) 608 6915

Our location
“Meždunarodnoe pravosudie” (International Justice) Journal

№4 (24) 2017

The sexual exploitation of child soldiers by their armed groups as a war crime

A commentary to the Judgment of the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court in the case of Prosecutor v. Bosco Ntaganda from 15 June 2017

Kristina Russkikh - Postgraduate student, Faculty of Law, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia.

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2017-4-26-33

Abstract. In its Judgment from 15 June 2017, the International Criminal Court confirmed its jurisdiction in the case of Bosco Ntaganda and indicated that the sexual exploitation and rape of child soldiers by members of their own armed group constitute a war crime. This decision of the ICC provoked much controversy among experts in the field of international criminal law. Some experts consider this Judgment to be a real breakthrough in the protection of child soldiers from sexual slavery by their own armed group, which before remained “invisible” for international criminal law, while many child soldiers, mostly girls, suffer from violations of their right to sexual integrity. Others accuse the Court of abuse of power and the “blurring” of the definition of a war crime, in an attempt to interpret international humanitarian law based on provisions that in reality it does not contain. This commentary examines the definition of a war crime under the ICC Statute and the validity of this judgment. Additionally, the connection of this case with the first Court’s decision on the issue of child soldiers in the Lubanga case is considered. The commentary covers the problem of the active participation of child soldiers in hostilities, the expansion of the scope of applying the norms on war crimes, and judicial activism. The issue of active participation of child soldiers in hostilities itself generates much controversy since the recognition of active parti­cipation protects them from certain crimes, but denies protection from others. The ICC attempted to elect the most advantageous position for the protection of child soldiers, but what consequences this entails is still unknown.

Keywords: war crime; child soldiers; International Criminal Court; sexual exploitation; armed conflict.

Citation: Russkikh K. (2017) Seksual'naya ekspluatatsiya detey-soldat ikh vooruzhennoy gruppoy kak voennoe prestuplenie: Kommentariy k Postanovleniyu Apellyatsionnoy palaty Mezhdunarodnogo ugolovnogo suda po delu Prokuror protiv Bosko Ntagandy ot 15 iyunya 2017 goda [The sexual exploitation of child soldiers by their armed groups as a war crime: A commentary to the Judgment of the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court in the case of the Prosecutor v. Bosco Ntaganda of 15 June 2017]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosu­die, no.4, pp.26–33. (In Russian).


(2017) Eliminating Sexual Violence in Conflict: Historic ICC Decision on the war crimes of rape and sexual slavery. Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice. Available at: (accessed: 20.12.2017).

Arzoumanian N., Pizzutelli F. (2003) Victimes et bourreaux: questions de responsabilité liées à la problématique des enfants-soldats en Afrique. Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, no.852, pp.827–855.

Cassese A., Gaeta P. (eds.) (2013) Cassese’s International Criminal Law, 3rd ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cottier М., Fenrick W.J., Viseur Sellers P., Zimmermann A. (1999) Article 8: War crimes. In: Triffterer O. (ed.) Commentary on the Rome Statutes of the International Criminal Court: Observers’ Notes, Article by Article, Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft.

Grey R. (2017) ICC Appeals Chamber issues “unprecedented” decision on war crimes of rape and sexual slavery by Rosemary Grey. INTLAWGRRLS. Available at: (accessed: 20.12.2017).

Helle D. (2000) Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. International Revue of the Red Cross: Humanitarian Debate: Law, Police, Action, vol.82, no.839, pp.800–804.

Heller K.J. (2017) ICC Appeals Chamber Says A War Crime Does Not Have to Violate IHL. Opinio Juris. Available at: (accessed: 20.12.2017).

Jurasz O. (2014) Gender-Based Crimes at the ICC: Where is the Future? Proceedings of the Annual Meeting (American Society of International Law), vol.108, pp.429–432.

Kreß C. International Criminal Law. Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law. 2009. Available at: (accessed: 20.12.2017).

McDermott Y. (2017) ICC extends War Crimes of Rape and Sexual Slavery to Victims from Same Armed Forces as Perpetrator. INTLAWGRRLS. Available at: (accessed: 20.12.2017).

Melzer N. (2008) Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities under International Humanitarian Law. International Review of the Red Cross, vol.90, no.872, pp.991–1047.

Paulus A., Vashkamadze M. (2009) Asimmetrichnaya voyna i ponyatie vooruzhyonnogo konflikta – popytka razrabotat' kontseptual'nuyu model' [Asymmetrical war and the notion of armed conflict – a tentative conceptualization]. Zhurnal Mezhdunarodnogo Komiteta Krasnogo Kresta, no.873, рр.95–125. (In Russian).

Prosperi L. (2017) The ICC Appeals Chamber Was Not Wrong (But Could Have Been More Right) in Ntaganda. Opinio Juris. Available at: (accessed: 18.12.2017).

Werle G. (2011). Printsipy mezhdunarodnogo ugolovnogo prava: uchebnik [The Principles of international criminal law: textbook], S.A.Sayapin (transl.), Moscow: TransLit. (In Russian).

Stay in the Loop!
The Moot Court Competition on Constitutional Justice 'Crystal Themis'
The Moot Court Competition on Constitutional Justice