Recruitment, as distinct from enlistment, is the compulsory incorporation of individuals into an armed force or group. Although the two terms may sometimes be used interchangeably (see Art. 4 (3) (c) Additional Protocol II and Art. 38 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child), the International Criminal Court ruled in the Lubanga case that these are two separate notions.

IHL contains a number of restrictions on compulsory recruitment.

According to Rule 95 of the ICRC’s Customary International Humanitarian Law Study, “[c]ompelling persons to serve in the forces of a hostile power is a specific type of forced labour that is prohibited in international armed conflicts. The Hague Regulations specify that it is forbidden to compel nationals of the hostile party to take part in operations of war directed against their own country, even if they were in the belligerent’s service before the war. The Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions state that so compelling a prisoner of war or a protected civilian is a grave breach.  The prohibition is repeated in the list of war crimes in the Statute of the International Criminal Court.”

For the IHL prohibition concerning recruitment of children for participation in hostilities: see child soldiers.

See ChildrenChild soldiersProtected Persons; Enlistment; Prisoners of War;





  In occupied territory