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PROTECTION OF CHILDREN’S IN ARMED CONFLICT: INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE

Shivendra Nath Mishra, 1st Year, Chanakya National Law University, Patna

INTRODUCTION

The protection of children in armed conflicts is an important concern of international and human rights policy. Children and young people under the age of 18 require special protection and may not be used in armed conflicts under any circumstances. The international community endeavours to continuously strengthen the international system for protecting children in armed conflicts. The Indian government is particularly involved in this field and has ratified some international agreements.

Recently an incident took place in the US, a former student at school opened fire and killed 17 other students. It is just catastrophic.

According to a report published by Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), In 2019 almost 2/3rd of the world's children were living in a conflict-ridden nation. Approx 426 Million Children were living less than 50km from where the actual fighting took place.


THE INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW AGREEMENTS

International humanitarian law is a special law for situations of armed conflict that aims to reduce human suffering during the war. According to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the First and Second Additional Protocols of 1977, it protects children under 15 years of age as civilians in international and non-international armed conflicts. It prohibits recruitment and participation in combat operations. If they take part in combat operations, they enjoy special protection as children.


THE UN CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD AND ITS OPTIONAL PROTOCOLS

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its additional protocols is the central reference work that defines the protection, funding, and participation rights of children and young people up to the age of 18. With ratification, 193 states committed themselves to protect children in armed conflicts and to ensure that people under the age of 15 are neither recruited for the armed forces nor directly take part in combat operations.

In 2000, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was supplemented by a first additional protocol on the participation of children in armed conflicts (A / RES / 54/263). It prohibits the immediate war effort and the forced recruitment of children and young people under the age of 18.

The contracting states must make a binding declaration under international law stating the age for the voluntary recruitment of their armed forces. According to the additional protocol, this must be higher than the 15 years specified in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. 155 states had ratified the additional protocol by April 2014. The anniversary of the entry into force (February 12, 2002) of the Additional Protocol is celebrated internationally as “Red Hand Day” to protest against the use of child soldiers.

The most recent additional protocol regulates an individual complaint procedure, which enables individual cases to be examined before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The federal government is one of the first states to sign the Additional Protocol, which came into force in April 2014 shortly after Costa Rica deposited the tenth instrument of ratification.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child reviews the state reports on implementing the Convention and its protocols at regular intervals and makes specific recommendations for the respective state in the so-called “Concluding Remarks”.

Besides, a United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Children in Armed Conflict advocates better protection for children in armed conflict around the world. In this capacity, for example, Graca Machel published the study "The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children" in 1996, an important and still highly regarded basic work, which was also included in the UNICEF study "Machel Study 10-Year Strategic Review: Children and Conflict in a changing World" were taken up.


THE ILO CONVENTION ON THE PROHIBITION AND IMMEDIATE ACTION TO ELIMINATE THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOUR

Convention 182 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) of 1999 prohibits the use of children under the age of 18 in any work that endangers their health, safety, and moral development. This prohibition also explicitly applies to the "forced and compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflicts".


THE RESOLUTIONS OF THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL(UNSC)

Between 1999 and 2014 the UN Security Council passed ten resolutions on children and armed conflict. Resolution 1379 (2001), for example, obliges the Secretary-General of the United Nations to publicly name the states and armed groups that recruit and use child soldiers in an annual report.

With Resolution 1612 (2005), a monitoring and reporting system was introduced by crimes against children. It is used to publish country reports on the situation of children in armed conflict and to collect information on the six serious crimes against children: killing and mutilation; Recruitment and deployment of child soldiers; Rape and use of sexual violence; Kidnappings; Attacks on schools and/or hospitals; Preventing access to humanitarian aid.

Governments and armed groups that violate the first three offences are named and put on a list (List of Shame) in the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on the situation of children in armed conflict. It discredits the listed parties and can also impose sanctions on them. It also calls for Resolution 1612 that Conflicting parties draw up action plans to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The basis is usually so-called disarmament, demobilization and reintegration measures. Current examples are agreements with conflicting parties in DR Congo, South Sudan, Somalia, and Myanmar. The UN Security Council working group set up for this purpose examines progress in the development and implementation of action plans and implementing international agreements.

With Resolution 1882 (2009) and Resolution 1998 (2011) the monitoring and reporting system was further supplemented and the crimes against children that were still going on were condemned. In particular, resolution 1998 (2011) outlaws attacks on schools and hospitals. The resolution obliges states in conflict to guarantee the right of children to education and health services.

In September 2012, resolution 2068 was adopted on a German initiative, which urges the Security Council to find new measures to deal with conflicting parties who repeatedly violate children's rights.

With its most recent resolution (2143) of March 2014, the Security Council repeatedly condemns the ongoing recruitment of children and their use in armed conflicts.


THE PARIS PRINCIPLES

In February 2007 a conference organized by France and UNICEF entitled “Free the Children from War”. At this conference, the so-called Paris Principles were adopted (”Principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups”). By signing, the taking part states have committed themselves to disarm children and young people under the age of 18 belonging to the armed forces of a state or armed groups and returning them to civilian life. The Offenders who recruited and deployed children should be punished.


UNICEF'S DEMANDS

A World Summit for Children was held in New York in 2002 on the initiative of UNICEF. The last document, “A world suitable for children”, contains an agenda with goals and action steps to better protect children in armed conflicts. UNICEF is an international organization that primarily campaigns for the rights of children. The recommendations of the child protection organization are therefore of particular importance to the Indian Government. UNICEF calls on all states and armed groups to ratify the Additional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and to ban young people under the age of 18 from using weapons. Further demands relate to the demobilization of child soldiers and the destruction of their weapons and the difficulty of spreading small arms through binding international agreements. Implementing sanctions against persons who have violated human and children’s rights and the responsibility of perpetrators before the International Criminal Court also deserves great attention.


THE ROME STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

The Rome Statute is an international treaty by which the International Criminal Court was created in The Hague. The statute was signed by 120 states in 1998 and entered into force in 2002. According to Article 6, the forcible transfer of children from one group to another group to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group is an offence of genocide. Article 7 declares trafficking in children for sexual exploitation a crime against humanity. Besides, targeted attacks on schools and hospitals and the recruitment and use of children under the age of 15 are considered war crimes under Article 8. It is the task of the International Criminal Court to hold perpetrators individually criminally accountable based on this legislation.


CONCLUSION

Although there are many conventions and laws planned by international bodies and ratified by various nations, children are getting exploited in war and also being used by Naxalite, terrorist groups for their benefit. There is a need to strictly implement these protocols and provisions, and government bodies can only do it with the help of NGOs and noble persons of society.

(Disclaimer- The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Child Rights Centre.)

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