International Law concerning Child Civilians in Armed Conflict

By Jenny Kuper | Go to book overview

2 International Human Rights Treaty Law and Related Instruments Relevant to Child Civilians in Armed Conflict

This Chapter aims to summarise principles of international human rights law which form an integral part of the legal regime applicable to child civilians in situations of armed conflict. It shows that all the major international human rights instruments make provision, to a greater or lesser extent, for the special treatment of children, in the sense of granting them additional protection and assistance. They also affirm the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life. Further, the human rights instruments specifically concerning children emphasise that the entitlement of children to special treatment must be particularly observed when children are experiencing extreme difficulty or danger, as in situations of armed conflict.

The Chapter begins by considering the applicability, to children and to situations of armed conflict, of provisions of human rights law. It then discusses the measures in general human rights law, both global and regional, that are particularly relevant as regards child civilians in armed conflict.1 This is followed by a description of pertinent human rights law exclusively concerning children. The customary nature of certain fundamental human rights principles is discussed later, in Chapter 5.


2.1 RELEVANT PRINCIPLES IN GENERAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW

As regards human rights in armed conflict generally, it is clear that, as one writer puts it, 'human rights and dignity are frequently among the first casualties of war', and that some of the most blatant violations arise from 'extreme denials of human rights experienced by civilian victims of armed conflict'.2 Many of these victims are, of course, child civilians, and many of

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1
It is useful to consider regional as well as global treaties since, as expressed by Van Boven, '[t]he view now prevails, after many years of experience with the coexistence of global and regional instruments, that they are complementary and that they mutually reinforce each other': T. Van Boven, "The International System of Human Rights: An Overview", in UN, Manual on Human Rights Reporting ( New York, 1991), 7.
2
R. Bilder, "Rethinking International Human Rights: Some Basic Questions" II Human Rights Journal 576 ( 1969).

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