The three preceding chapters have considered international human rights and humanitarian law, as set out largely in treaty and in other legal instruments, that is relevant to the treatment of child civilians in situations of armed conflict. However, a summary of this body of law would be incomplete without at least a brief consideration of the possible customary law status of certain of its provisions.
The customary status of particular norms is, of course, important, as this generally renders them binding on all states, even states that are not party to treaties that may articulate such norms.1 Further, when they are enshrined in treaty, customary principles cannot, for example, be subject to derogation, reservation, or withdrawal.2 In addition, as one authority has emphasised, 'the invocation of a norm as both conventional and customary adds at least rhetorical strength to the moral claim for its observance and affects its interpretation'.3
This Chapter will discuss the possible customary law status of the principle that child civilians in armed conflict are entitled to special treatment. A definitive examination of this complex and controversial question is beyond the scope of this book and would be a fruitful area for further research.
Customary law in general, and specifically in relation to human rights and humanitarian principles, has been described and analysed by many writers.4____________________