Forever vulnerable
: pledge for a former child soldier status

  • Catarina Moita de Almeida Ferreira (Student)

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Child soldiers, as a prevalent phenomenon widely condemned by the international community, have been slowly becoming a policy priority in the humanitarian field. Regrettably, once this condition becomes part of their past, there is almost a loss of interest or even forgetfulness of their vulnerable condition. Driven by disbelief due to ICC’s disregard for the “former child soldier condition” of the defendant Dominic Ongwen, and the insufficient—and sometimes non-existent— international legal framework for former child soldiers, we propose a protective status for individuals who fall within the definition of former child soldiers. Eligibility for this status is based on the very own definition of former child soldiers, which, in turn, should highlight the heterogeneity of this group, whose vulnerability stems from the past gross violation of their human rights. Accordingly, the proposal of a protective status implies addressing different experiences that are directly linked to different protection needs. Yet, due to the number of issues that this status can raise, we selected the type of participation in hostilities as our guiding element. Nevertheless, the ultimate protection of a vulnerable group can only be obtained through a legal instrument, which is why we aim to set this status in a binding article. Thus, we ask ourselves: why are child soldiers deserving of international law’s protection, but not individuals whose past is tainted by the same violations of their human rights and whose future is conditioned by their past experiences?
Date of Award19 Jul 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa
SupervisorJosé Azeredo Lopes (Supervisor)


  • Former child soldiers
  • Child soldiers
  • Human rights
  • International Humanitarian Law
  • Dominic Ongwen


  • Mestrado em Direito

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