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This study assesses the status in international law of children who are recruited to fight in conflicts throughout the world. It highlights the ways in which international humanitarian law fails to provide effective protection, particularly in the internal conflicts which are the most common battlefields today. Based upon empirical data gathered from places of conflict all over the world, the authors examine the consequences for child soldiers, their families and communities of their participation in armed conflict. They conclude their study with practical suggestions for preventing recruitment, and call for a more coherent policy of treatment for those children who have participated in acts of violence.