International Law concerning Child Civilians in Armed Conflict

By Jenny Kuper | Go to book overview

7 The Law in Practice: Three Conflicts

As mentioned in Chapter 1, the object of this book is not simply to describe the international law regarding child civilians in armed conflict, and those bodies and fora involved in its implementation. Such an exercise, while of some value, is like assembling the components of an engine without seeing how it functions. The concern here is to see how the 'engine' can best be mobilised. Accordingly, a further objective of this book is, in this Chapter, to attempt to assess the effectiveness of the relevant law, and, in Chapter 8, to make recommendations to enhance its effectiveness if this seems appropriate and possible.

First, to define what is meant by the 'effectiveness' of this body of law. This is measured, as stated in section 1.1 above, by the extent to which it seems to be observed, and the consequences of such observance. Do these laws appear to be respected, in terms of action taken or not taken, even if they are not specifically referred to? Are they invoked, in the sense that they are specifically referred to, even if not implemented? Are they implemented, being both explicitly invoked and acted upon? Finally, if the law is observed in any of these ways, does this have, even to a limited extent, the effect of preventing or ameliorating the existing or probable future harm to the child civilians concerned?

It is then necessary to address the question of how the effectiveness of this body of law is to be assessed. What evidence can be relied upon, and what criteria can be used? One approach is to take as an example a cluster of recent related conflicts, in order to gauge the extent to which the law regarding child civilians (as set out in Chapters 2 to 5 above) appears to have had any impact. This strategy will be followed here. The example to be discussed consists of the three conflicts involving Iraq, between 1987 and 1991.1 The focus of this discussion remains the legal issues relating to child civilians in armed conflict, and accordingly it will not include a detailed historical and/or factual analysis of these conflicts.2

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1
Although they could be differently categorised, the events involving Iraq described in this Ch. are treated as 3 conflicts distinguished from each other partly according to their chronology, and partly according to the applicable body of law. Thus the two international armed conflicts which were so closely interlinked are considered as one, although the occupation of Kuwait could have been analysed as a conflict separate from the 1991 Gulf War.
2
Such analyses of the Iraqi conflicts can, in any event, be found elsewhere. See, e.g., Rowe (ed.) ( 1993); M. F. Sluglett and P. Sluglett, Iraq Since 1958: From Revolution to Dictatorship ( London, 1990); D. Korn, Human Rights in Iraq ( New York, 1990); E. Karsh and I. Rautsi,

-169-

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