A Swedish woman has been charged with war crimes for taking her young son to Syria, where he was recruited as a child soldier, and finally killed in the country’s long-running conflict, prosecutors. announced Tuesday.
The prosecutor’s office claims that the unidentified woman brought her son to Syria in August 2013, when he was 12 years old. Since then and until May 2016, the child has directly and consistently engaged in hostilities carried out by various armed groups, including the Islamic State, prosecutors say.
“The investigation has shown that the son while living at home was educated and trained to take part in hostilities, that he was provided with military equipment and weapons and that he was used in combat and for propaganda purposes as well as for other operations related to warfare,” said prosecutor Reena Devgun. as quoted in the statement.
The case will be heard by Stockholm District Court. The defendant, who returned to Sweden from Syria in December 2020, maintains his innocence. This is the first time Swedish prosecutors have brought charges for war crimes in the country related to the recruitment of child soldiers, the statement says.
The boy died in 2017, when he was 16 years old. The facts behind the war crimes allegations focus on his involvement in the Syrian conflict between the ages of 12 and 14, apparently due to the fact that the use of child soldiers under the age of 15 is prohibited internationally by both treaty and customary law, and is defined as a war crime in Rome Statute by the International Criminal Court. Although international law provides different protections for soldiers under the age of 18, those under 15 are given more comprehensive legal protection, which explained by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Syria is a breeding ground for the recruitment of child soldiers. According to a 2021 UN Report between children in armed conflict, between July 2018 and June 2020, upwards of 1,400 children were recruited or used for conflict-related purposes by at least 25 different parties in the country’s long-running conflict.
The Islamic State is known for prioritizing the recruitment of child soldiers. According to a 2020 Report of the Middle East Initiative, the organization recruited children by offering monthly scholarships to the families of each child recruited, as well as free “educational” programming, which included indoctrination efforts and basic military training.