International Law concerning Child Civilians in Armed Conflict

By Jenny Kuper | Go to book overview

4 Treaty Law of Armed Conflict and Related Instruments Specifically Regarding Child Civilians

The previous chapter outlined the main principles of international humanitarian law regarding civilians generally. This Chapter will now focus on provisions in this body of law regarding the subject matter at the heart of this research: the protection of child civilians in situations of armed conflict.

As one writer emphasises, '[tlhere can be no doubt that in time of war children are in even greater need of protection and assistance than in peace-time'.1

This Chapter looks first, in some detail, at measures in international humanitarian treaty law which specifically concern child civilians. It considers those applicable to all child civilians in both international and in non- international armed conflicts, and also describes certain measures which, in international armed conflict, provide only for children in particular categories (such as those in occupied territories, or enemy aliens).

Chapters 3 and 4 together accordingly illustrate that children can be entitled to three levels of protection under international humanitarian law: first, as members of the civilian population generally; secondly, as children, owing to their particular vulnerability; and finally, as members of a specific category of child civilian (such as an enemy alien) if they qualify as such.

Following the discussion of pertinent treaty law, this Chapter briefly analyses such law in terms of whether it expresses the negative duty not to harm or the positive obligation to assist. It then concludes by considering certain non-treaty initiatives relating to international humanitarian law and the treatment of children.


4.1 BACKGROUND

As with civilians generally, the entitlement of children to protection in armed conflict has traditionally been honoured in many cultures, although

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1
Krill, in Freeman and Veerman (eds.) ( 1992), 347. See also Mann ( 1987), 48.

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