Commentary on Children, Accountability and Justice: Advancing Restorative Justice for Child Soldiers and Child Pirates

Ken Watkin


Jacqueline Salmone’s timely article arguing that the international community should apply a restorative justice approach when dealing child pirates, in the same way their child “soldier” counterparts are treated, sheds a bright light on an area that has largely remained hidden in the shadows. In doing so she presents cogent arguments questioning why the predominate use of retributive justice for dealing with such criminal activity should be privileged over the restorative approach applied to child soldiers that looks to the best interest of the child. As is outlined, the restorative justice approach fosters healing, social reintegration, and serves as a prevention mechanism for re-entry into conflict. It is difficult to argue against these outcomes, and it is not clear why the trial and punishment means applied to adults appears to remain the favoured approach. Notwithstanding the acknowledgement that some children are not faultless and passive victims, it is evident from the article, and especially in respect of its assessment of the “conceptions of childhood”, that the linking of “children” with a purely “retribution” approach seems out of place in the 21st Century. It immediately forces the reader to ask why this has occurred, and what needs to be changed to avoid such a narrow limited view of how child pirates should be treated.

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