University of Miami National Security & Armed Conflict Law Review


Grantland Lyons

Document Type



This Note addresses the question of whether to hold child combatants or their commanders accountable for war crimes, and if so, how and to what extent. The author ultimately concludes that child combatants and their commanders should be held equally accountable for their actions, but by measures that appropriately balance individual and public interests in rehabilitation, reintegration, and deterrence.

The Note focuses on Omar Khadr, a former child combatant, while using other cases as a reference point for current international legal norms. The author analyzes Khadr’s combatant status review, subsequent legal proceedings, detention, and sentence in light of various legal and policy considerations. The author maintains that despite the objectionable means used to obtain Khadr’s conviction, it was at least proportionate to the war crimes that he allegedly committed. However, the author also suggests which measures would have been more appropriate under the circumstances and recommends measures that could be taken with respect to similar cases in the future.