Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Education And Debate

Child soldiers: understanding the context

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 25 May 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:1268

Rapid Response:

'Justification' of Conscription of Children

I read with interest the article by my friend Prof. Daya
Somasunderam. We have previously described in the BMJ an article on
similar aspects, which the author unfortunately has not quoted. Our view
was, that whatever the reasons, conscription could never be justified, and
we suggested a new definition of child abuse in this article:"The
involvement of dependent, developmentally immature children and
adolescents in armed conflict they do not truly comprehend, to which they
are unable to give informed consent, and which adversely affects the
child's right to unhindered growth and identity." I totally agree with
Prof. Somasunderam, that whoever, pushes or pulls a child into
conscription should be tried under a war crimes tribunal.


1. D G H de Silva, C J Hobbs (2001). Conscription of children in armed
conflict. BMJ. Reviews, Personal views, BMJ 2001;322:1372 ( 2 June )

2. Harendra de Silva, Dr. Chris Hobbs, Helga Hanks. (2001). Conscription
of children in armed conflict - a form of child abuse. A study of 19
former child soldiers. Child Abuse Review, Volume 10, Issue 2, 2001.
Pages: 125-134

Competing interests: No competing interests

25 May 2002
Harendra de Silva
Chairman, National Child Protection Authority
330, Thalawatugoda, Madiwela, Sri Jayawardenapura, Sri lanka