The conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia were characterized by extensive use of child soldiers. Until a few years ago it was almost unheard of for an individual commander to face penalties for using child soldiers. Today, recruiting or using children under age 15 is considered a war crime, and individual commanders are being convicted and sent to prison. All of the individuals that have faced trial and judgment by the Special Court to date were found guilty of using child soldiers, among other crimes, and are serving prison sentences ranging from 15 to 52 years.
Charles Taylor was indicted for recruiting and using child soldiers among other crimes, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone will release its judgment against him on April 26, 2012. On March 14, 2012, the International Criminal Court delivered a guilty verdict against rebel leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo for recruiting and using child soldiers in hostilities, taking another step in bringing justice to the tens of thousands of children forced to fight in conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere. These trials attach an added stigma to child recruiters: that of war criminal.