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In accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding between the Society of International Law Singapore(SILS) and the YIJUN Institute of International Law signed on September 2, 2013, SILS is officially serving for the Journal of East Asia & International Law as the Singapore correspondent. The Journal honorably welcomes SILS.


A. General News

  1. The National University of Singapore's Center for International Law is carry out its Project on ASEAN Integration through Law The raison d'etre of the Project may be summarized as follows: The ASEAN Charter adopted in 2007 provides a new level of commitment and ambitious plan for the future of ASEAN. It is premised on an "… adherence to multilateral trade rules and ASEAN's rules-based regimes." Our premise is that Rules of law and The Rule of Law will be indispensable, a necessary condition, for the successful realization of the ASEAN Charter. There is currently a huge gap between the ambition of ASEAN and the legal and institutional methods and tools at its disposal. Our project is designed at the conceptual level to develop at least a prolegomena for an Asian Theory of Integration that, whilst informed by, is not just a crude cut-and-paste of, the experience of other regions. At the functional level we aim to provide a rich kit, based on comparative experiences, of legal and institutional methods and tools (each offering pros and cons) which may be at the disposal of policy makers as ASEAN charts its way ahead. Given that much of the literature on ASEAN has focused on international relations and politics, we seek to contribute to legal scholarship in this manner. The mid-term results of this Project would be available in early 2012.
  2. The Asian Peace-building and Rule of Law Program ("APRL")'s Director Mahdev Mohan and Research Fellows Lan Shiow contributed towards Human Rights Resource Centre's ("HRRC") Baseline Study of Rule of Law for Human Rights in the ASEAN region, which analyzed the legal framework supporting human rights in ASEAN.
  3. In June 2011, the International Co-Prosecutor at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Andrew Cayley, filed a "Request for Investigative Action and Supplementary Submission" which adds additional crimes to Case 004 at the court, including crimes committed against the Khmer Krom population in Takeo and Pursat provinces.
  4. The Law and Human Rights 2011 was held in Singapore, hosted by the Asian Peace-building and Rule of Law Programme at the SMU School of Law from 4-12 July. More than 65 human rights and international law professionals from 18 countries participated in Summer Institute, which focused on the rights of women and children in the Asia-Pacific region. For further enquiries, please email: or

B. The Summer Institute of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

  1. Introduction
    The Summer Institute in International Humanitarian Law ("IHL") and Human Rights was held in Singapore, for the first time this year. From July 4-12, 2011, prominent human rights practitioners conducted seminars focused on the rights of women and children during times of conflict and peace. The workshop encompassed a week of intensive training in Singapore, followed by a four-day field trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It has widely been recognized that women and children are particularly vulnerable to human rights violations, and these seminars considered how to investigate and deter such violations in Asia. The course was taught from an interdisciplinary perspective, encompassing both rapidly evolving legal norms and contemporary practice in the field.
    The Summer Institute provided participants with basic legal understanding of key human rights instruments and conventions that specifically recognize the need for special promotion and protection of the rights of women and children. The Summer Institute covered a broad range of issues: the trafficking of women and children in Southeast Asia, the use of information and communication technology in enhancing the promotion and protection of rights, violence against women in conflict, use of children in armed conflict, development of human rights institutions in ASEAN, etc.
    This note on the Summer Institute seeks to provide a snapshot and analyze a few significant issues that were discussed.
  2. Convention on the Rights of the Child
    Professor Yanghee Lee of Sungkyunkwan University presided over the seminar. She is Chairwoman of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the independent body of experts responsible for monitoring implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child ("CRC") by its State Parties.
    The CRC was first passed in the UN General Assembly Resolution 44/25 and became unanimously adopted in November 20, 1989; it has reached near universal ratification, with 193 signatories. The CRC is the first comprehensive legal instrument to articulate all rights relevant to children, by covering economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights. There are two optional protocols to the convention, on involvement of children in armed conflict and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Professor Lee provided an overview of the CRC, analyzing it through the 8 clusters that form how the Committee conducts dialogue on the issues, (i) general measures of implementation, (ii) Definition of a Child, (iii) General Principles (Four articles of the Convention), (iv) Civil Rights and Freedom, (v) Family environment and Alternative care, (vi) Basic Health and Welfare, (vii) Education, Leisure and Cultural Activities (viii) Special Protection Measures.
    The committee adopts 'concluding observations' which represent recommendations in response to the consideration of a state's report. Professor Lee remarked that more could be done to improve recommendations that form the concluding remarks. Moreover, the committee holds a day of General Discussion each year. Its purpose is to foster deeper understanding of the contents and implications of the Convention as they relate to specific articles or topics. The Committee also published its interpretation of the content of human rights provisions, in the form of General Comments on thematic issues or rights. These are legally non-binding but considered as "soft law" --'instruments with extra-legal binding effect.'
    One of the newest developments to the CRC is the Communication Procedure. Under the Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/13/3, the CRC established a Working Group to explore the possibility of elaborating and optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide a communications procedure complementary to the reporting procedure under the Convention.
    In discussion on the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in Armed Conflict (OPAC), Professor Lee explained that according to the CRC, a 'child solider' is any person under 18 years of age who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to cooks, porters, messengers and anyone accompanying such groups, or other than family members. This definition includes girls recruited for sexual purposes and for forced marriage. Professor Lee noted that the global campaign on the above Optional Protocol is a leap forward in international law, and strengthens the legal protection of children. It prohibits governments and armed groups from using under the age of 18 in hostilities. It also bans all compulsory recruitment of children under the age of by the government.
  3. Special Court for Sierra Leone: Use of Child Soldiers
    In highlighting the significance of the OPAC, Professor Yanghee Lee laid the foundation for case study specific seminars later within the Summer Institute. Shyamala Alagendra, formerly a trial lawyer in the Office of The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, she spoke about her experience as a prosecutor for the case against Charles Taylor in Sierra Leone, focusing specifically on the use of child soldiers. Miss Alagendra drew from numerous testimonies of victims and survivors to bring alive the gross human rights violations that occurred in that country.
    The Revolutionary United Front ("RUF") was established in the late 1980s. In March 1991, the RUF launched their first attack in Sierra Leone from Liberia. It was between 1991 and 1995 that the RUF takes control of considerable parts of the country. Between the years 1997 and 1998, large-scale crimes occur, especially involving child soldiers and forced marriages. Fighting finally ends between the end of 2001 and January 2002.
    On January 16, 2002, the UN and Government of Sierra Leone signed an agreement establishing the Special Court for Sierra Leone ("SCSL"). On March 2003, the AFRC and RUF Commanders were indicted for War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity and they were transferred to the SCSL. RUF Trials begin in July 5, 2004. And on June 4, 2007, the trials of Charles Taylor commence. On July 19, 2007, the Trial Chamber had sentenced Alex Tamba Brima and Santigie Borbor Kanu to 50 years imprisonment, while Brima Bazzy Kamara received a 45-year jail term. On April 8, 2009, Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao, were sentenced to terms of imprisonment of 52, 40 and 25 years, respectively while on October 26, 2009, the Appeals Chamber upheld sentences against three former RUF rebels. The judgment on the Charles Taylor trial is due.
    Children were systematically conscripted into the rebel and military groups, as compared to being enlisted. Conscription is defined as the "abduction of persons for specific use within an organization" or the "forced military training of persons." Children were used in military operations and combat by the RUF and AFRC. They were also used as bodyguards and to guard military objectives. According to the AFRC Indictment, paragraph 65:

    At all times relevant to this Indictment, throughout the Republic of Sierra Leone, AFRC/RUF routinely conscripted, enlisted and/or used boys and girls under the age of 15 to participate in active hostilities. Many of these children were first abducted, then trained in AFRC/RUF camps in various locations throughout the country, and thereafter used as fighters.

    Another testimony from the RUF Case mentioned:

    Thousands of children were abducted from all over Sierra Leone; Thousands of children underwent military training at AFRC/RUF camps; Children were formed into Small Boys Units and Small Girls Units; and Armed Small Boys Units and Small Girls Units were used in combat.

    It was heard in the Charles Taylor case that:

    Between about 30 November 1996 and about 18 January 2002, throughout the Republic of Sierra Leone, members of the RUF, AFRC, AFRC/RUF Junta or alliance, and/or Liberian fighters, assisted and encouraged by, acting in concert with, under the direction and/or control of, and/or subordinate to the ACCUSED, routinely conscripted, enlisted and/or used boys and girls under the age of 15 to participate in active hostilities. […]

    Ms. Alagendra broadly classified the prosecution evidence into several categories: (i) former child soldiers (ii) rebel and military commanders (iii) victims (iv) social workers and experts (v) documentary evidence from the United Nations and NGOs. She shared that the prosecution also had to use show that commanders had reason to know that the soldiers recruited were children. They showed this by the physical appearance of the child. However, Ms. Alagendra noted that this was particularly challenging, as children may not look their age due to malnutrition or deformities. Moreover, birth certificates were not commonly available. Nonetheless, the prosecution relied on the physical appearance of the children such as his/her size, height etc. Experts were called in to do bone and teeth scans but even then, this was imperfect and not adapted to African physiology. However, the prosecution managed to show that military or rebel units were sometime called small Boys Units" and this was sufficient to put the perpetrators on notice that there was a substantial likelihood that the persons being used in hostilities. The prosecution also found that records were kept of the combatant's age.
    She also shared testimonies on how the commanders defended themselves by claiming that there was misunderstanding on child soldering. Charles Taylor attempted to explain in his case:

    The truth of the matter is - there is a unit of young people, almost like an auxiliary, like you have a boy scout[…]

    We have got about 15, 20,000 soldiers. Some of them are leaving home. They take along with them younger members of the family. You have a young cousin 10/12, you take him along. He would carry your food. He would carry maybe even your rifle. He will hold it while they are going into areas where they are about to go into combat,

    So when you hear of reports that there were some young men seen in Liberia carrying rifles, those reports are true, but what the reports don't say is this: That the men that they see carrying those rifles are young men walking with their family, but do not enter combat. Never entered combat.

    In concluding her seminar, Ms. Alagendra raised three pertinent questions which she believed warranted further discussion (i) How can one effectively prove the age of the child? (ii) What acts constitute children in hostilities? (iii) Should child soldiers be treated as victims or perpetrators, especially for those involved in atrocities against civilians? Should they then be persecuted?
  4. Conclusion
    The Summer Institute presented an unique opportunity to hear from policymakers, human rights practitioners and lawyers and facilitated the exchange of knowledge and experiences between the participants. As a platform that will help nurture a new generation of Asian scholars, lawyers and practitioners who are equipped to refine and develop and develop human rights discourse and practice in Asia, the discussion of key thematic issues concerning the rights of women and children must continue beyond the seminars in order to contribute towards advancing the promotion and protection of their rights.
  5. Ms. Lan Shiow(Singapore Management University)