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W&L Law’s Mark Drumbl Involved in Major UN Initiative Addressing Child Terrorists

Prof. Mark DrumblProf. Mark Drumbl

Mark Drumbl, Class of 1975 Alumni Professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, is involved in the legal content of a new book launched last month at the United Nations entitled “Cradled by Conflict: Child Involvement with Armed Groups in Contemporary Conflict.”

Together with Professor Gabor Rona of Cardozo Law School, Drumbl co-chaired an experts meeting held in Tarrytown (just outside New York City) in August 2017 in which nearly 30 experts on counter-terrorism, children’s rights, decommission of children, and military rules of engagement participated from across the globe.

For the UN project, Drumbl and Rona co-wrote a chapter entitled “Navigating Challenges in Child Protection and the Reintegration of Children Associated with Armed Groups.” This chapter identifies the intersections between international law and the ability of states to detain, prosecute, and engage children associated with armed groups politically determined to be ‘terroristic’ or ‘violent extremist’ in nature.

“The key argument is that there is no principled basis to distinguish such children, when illegally recruited, from children associated with armed groups or armed forces generally,” says Drumbl. “What is more, state actors need to take into account the ‘best interests of the child’ maxim in their interactions with such children which, in turn, is a solid guard against recidivism or recruitment tactics that such terroristic actors deploy.”

Drumbl and Rona urged policymakers that international law on these topics was quite clear, so the challenge lay in implementation and enforcement.

At a follow-up event in New York in February 2018, some participants shared findings from their field research in Syria, Iraq, and Mali and considered, within the frameworks provided by law, programmatic guidance for practitioners working to protect children and to help release them from such groups.

At W&L, Drumbl serves as Director of the University’s Transnational Law Institute. His research and teaching interests include public international law, global environmental governance, international criminal law, post-conflict justice, and transnational legal process. In addition to numerous articles, book chapters and other scholarly works, he is the author of “Reimagining Child Soldiers” and “Atrocity, Punishment, and International Law.”