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Briefs, Fact Sheets and Brochures

Legal Protection of Children in Armed Conflict

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Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law,ICRC, International Committee of the Red Cross

International humanitarian law provides broad protection for children. In the event of armed conflict, either international or noninternational, children benefit from the general protection provided for civilians not taking part in the hostilities. Non-combatant civilians are guaranteed humane treatment and covered by the legal provisions on the conduct of hostilities. Given the particular vulnerability of children, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (hereafter GCIII and GCIV) and their Additional Protocols of 1977 (API and APII) lay down a series of rules according them special protection. Children who take direct part in hostilities do not lose that special protection. The Additional Protocols, the 1989 Convention on the rights of the child and its recent Optional Protocol, in particular, also set limits on children’s participation in hostilities.

This brief also provides an overview of the legal protection afforded children who have been recruited into armed service.

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