Statement: 8 December 2023

Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court publishes new Policy on Children: Statement by ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC


As we witness the suffering of children globally, my Office has launched a new Policy on Children to help remedy their historic underrepresentation and lack of engagement in international criminal justice processes. This Policy represents a critical step to realising my consistent pledge to take a child-sensitive approach to investigations and prosecutions by articulating how we can proactively and explicitly consider their experiences in all our cases.

Children have the right to participate in justice processes that involve them. It is the position of this Office that children’s voices will be heard in every case, every situation. Interaction with an individual child will of course depend on that child’s abilities, consent, and best interests. But at the case level, my Office will actively and affirmatively seek to engage with children so that we can better understand the ways they are targeted for and impacted by crimes under the Rome Statute.

This Policy emphasises our view that all Rome Statute crimes may be committed against or affect children. Conflicts affect children in various ways depending on personal characteristics, including age, gender, disability, ethnicity, religion, where they live and their level of education. Countering a traditionally homogenous view of children, the Policy aims to actively reflect and adapt to issues related to intersectionality, children’s different developmental stages and their evolving capacities.

Building on the 2016 OTP Policy on Children, this Policy incorporates recent research about children’s development, memory, and abilities to engage in judicial processes, as well as the emergence of new technologies to support their safe participation.

To ensure that we engage children as victims, survivors and witnesses, the Policy emphasises my commitment to establish an institutional environment that facilitates effective investigation and prosecution of crimes against and affecting children– including through recruitment, training, external collaboration, and meaningful implementation, monitoring, and evaluation measures. 


In taking a child rights, child-sensitive and child-competent approach, we aim to address the adult-centric view in tribunals where children are largely excluded from the justice process. Our investigations across Situations, including in Afghanistan, Bangladesh / Myanmar, Darfur, Sudan, and the State of Palestine, involve investigation and prosecution of crimes against and affecting children. Even before launching this Policy, we made headway in implementing this approach such as in the indictments for the unlawful deportation and transfer of children in the Situation in Ukraine in March 2023. 

Issued alongside the Policy on Gender-based Crimes, and in tandem with the 2022 Policy on the Crime of Gender Persecution, this publication demonstrates our strategic goal to enhance our policy framework in thematic areas and to be a source of expertise in international criminal justice. Next year, we will launch policies on complementarity and cooperation, cyber crimes, slavery crimes and environmental crimes. With this series, we aspire to promote the exchange of lessons learned and best practices from local and international accountability efforts.

I am indebted to Deputy Prosecutor Nazhat Shameem Khan and to my Special Adviser on Crimes Against and Affecting Children, Véronique Aubert, for leading the intensive process to develop this Policy. Many experts from the Office were key to this initiative, including Senior Coordinator for Gender-based Crimes and Crimes Against or Affecting Children Prof. Kim Thuy Seelinger. Likewise, 186 external experts from more than 30 countries around the globe shared their time and wisdom. I am deeply grateful for their contributions.

As we further highlight the importance of giving visibility to children and listening to their voices, it is my hope that this Policy enhances the work of all who seek justice for children affected by atrocities worldwide. Let us acknowledge the wrongs children have suffered, and ensure that the law can give them a protective embrace.  

For further details on "preliminary examinations" and "situations and cases" before the Court, click here, and here.

Source: Office of the Prosecutor | Contact: [email protected]