Justice for children? : A socio-legal study on Colombia’s responses to children associated with armed violence

Sammanfattning: The aim of this thesis is to examine how criminal justice policy practices arose and persist in light of the international victim-centred legal framework for children associated with armed groups. The study explores the gaps between how children are treated in law versus empirical practices of criminalisation in a particular domestic setting (Colombia), which has been riddled by internal armed conflict and hybrid forms of violence. The study centres around how judicial and other actors in Colombia experience policy reform and how they perceive the boundaries of victimisation and criminalisation in relation to children associated with armed violence. The research incorporates insights from youth justice studies on transformation and entrenchment in criminal justice, and various (and difficult) conceptions of victims from victimological studies, especially from the contexts of armed conflicts and peacebuilding. The study employs the qualitative method of interviews with state and government officials, judicial practitioners, and various other organisational actors as well as analyses of relevant policy documents and reports. This research increases our knowledge of criminological and socio-legal processes pertaining to children involved with different types of armed actors, including smaller community-based armed groups like gangs. The main conclusions concern the various complexities surrounding the process of children being recognised as victims in light of common criminalisation practices. The paradoxes inherent to the victim-offender overlap are central to our understanding of entrenched and unsettled practices with regards to children in the peacebuilding and the criminal justice systems.