International humanitarian law gives children general protection as civilian persons taking no part in hostilities and special protection as particularly vulnerable beings. That special protection is conferred by numerous rules, inter alia on:

(a) the treatment of new-born babies on the same footing as the wounded;

(b) a child’s right to care and aid;

(c) the reception of children under the age of fifteen years in hospital and safety zones and localities;

(d) the reunion of families dispersed by an international or internal armed conflict;

(e) the temporary evacuation of children for imperative reasons of their safety, especially from a besieged or encircled area;

(f) the prohibition, in case of occupation, of compelling protected persons under the age of eighteen years to work;

(g) the protection of the child’s cultural environment and of their education;

(h) the protection of the rights of children arrested, detained or interned;

(i) the prohibition of applying the death penalty to children under the age of eighteen years at the time the offence was committed;

(j) the protection of the family and the inviolability of the status of child;

(k) the prohibition of recruiting children under the age of fifteen years into the armed forces;

(l) the protection of orphans or children separated from their parents.





Suggested readings:

ABBOTT Amy Beth, “Child Soldiers – The Use of Children as Instruments of War”, in Suffolk Transnational Law Review, Vol. 23/2, 2000, pp. 499-537.

BOUVIER Antoine & DUTLI Maria Teresa, “Children in Armed Conflict”, in The International Journal of Children’s Rights, The Hague, Kluwer Law International, Vol. 4/2, 1996, pp. 115-212.

BREEN Claire, “When is a Child not a Child?: Child Soldiers in International Law”, in Human Rights Review, Vol. 8, No. 2, January-March 2007, pp. 71-103.

BRETT Rachel & MACCALLIN Margaret, Children: The Invisible Soldiers, Rädda Barnen (Swedish Save the Children), Stockholm, 1996, 257 pp.

BUGNION François, “Les enfants soldats, le droit international humanitaire et la Charte africaine des droits et du bien-être de l’enfant”, in African Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol. 12/2, 2000, pp. 262-275.

CHAMBERLAIN Cynthia, MOODRICK-EVEN KHEN Hilly & SCHABAS William A., “Children and Armed Conflict”, in QUENIVET Noëlle & SHAH-DAVIS Shilan (eds), International Law and Armed Conflict: Challenges in the 21st Century, The Hague, T.M.C. Asser Press, 2010, pp. 243-286.

COHN Ilene & GOODWIN-GILL Guy S., Child Soldiers. The Role of Children in Armed Conflicts, Geneva/Oxford, Henry-Dunant Institute/Clarendon Press, 1994, 228 pp.

COLLMER Sabine, “Child Soldiers: An Integral Element in New, Irregular Wars?”, in The Quarterly Journal, Vol. 3/3, September 2004, pp. 1-11.

DELISSEN Astrid J.-M., “Legal Protection of Child-Combatant after the Protocols: Reaffirmation, Development or a Step Backwards”, in Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflict – Challenges Ahead, Essays in Honour of Frits Kalshoven, Dordrecht, M. Nijhoff, 1991, pp. 153-164.

DRENIK Simona, “Protection of Children in Armed Conflict under Customary International Humanitarian Law: a Comment to the 2005 ICRC Study on Customary IHL”, in Slovenian Law Review, Vol. 6, No. 1-2, December 2009, pp. 165-186.

DUTLI Maria Teresa, “Captured Child Combatants”, in IRRC, No. 278, September-October 1990, pp. 421-434.

FALLAH Katherine, “Perpetrators and Victims: Prosecuting Children for the Commission of International Crimes, in African Journal of International and Comparative Law, T. 14, No. 1, 2006, pp. 83-103.

GACHOUD Régine, “La guerre, un jeu d’enfants ? Enfants soldats : la problématique des filles”, in African Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 14 (2006), 2008, pp. 75-123.

HAPPOLD Matthew, “Child Soldiers in International Law: The Legal Regulation of Children’s Participation in Hostilities”, in Netherlands International Law Review, Vol. 47/1, 2000, pp. 27-52.

JESSEMAN Christine, “The Protection and Participation Rights of the Child Soldiers: An African Global Perspective”, in African Human Rights Law Journal, Vol. 1/1, 2001, pp. 140-154.

MAYSTRE Magali, Les enfants soldats en droit international : problématiques contemporaines au regard du droit international humanitaire et du droit international pénal, Paris, Pedone, 2010, 202 pp.

MERMET Joël, “Protocole facultatif à la Convention relative aux droits de l’enfant concernant l’implication d’enfants dans les conflits armés : quel progrès pour la protection des droits de l’enfant ?”, in Actualité et Droit international, June 2002,

PLATTNER Denise, “Protection of Children in International Humanitarian Law”, in IRRC, No. 240, June 1984, pp. 140-152.

QUENIVET Noëlle, “Girl Soldiers and Participation in Hostilities”, in African Journal of International and Comparative Law = Revue africaine de droit international et comparé, Vol. 16, pt. 2, 2008, pp. 219-235.

SINGER Sandra, “The Protection of Children During Armed Conflict Situations”, in IRRC, No. 252, May 1986, pp. 133-167.

SHEPPARD Ann, “Child Soldiers: Is the Optional Protocol Evidence of an Emerging ‘Straight-18’ Consensus?”, in The International Journal of Children’s Rights, Vol. 8/1, 2000, pp. 37-70.

VANDEWIELE Tiny & ALEN André (eds), A Commentary on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Optional Protocol: the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts, Leiden, Boston, M. Nijhoff, 2006, 66 pp.

VEERMAN Philip & HEPHZIBAH Levine, “Protecting Palestinian Intifada Children: Peaceful Demonstrators, Child Soldiers or Child Martyrs?”, in The International Journal of Children’s Rights, Vol. 9/2, 2001, pp. 71-88.
“Les enfants et la guerre”, in IRRC, No. 842, June 2001, pp. 494-504.

WEBSTER Timothy, “Babes with Arms: International Law and Child Soldiers”, in George Washington International Law Review, Vol. 39, No. 2, 2007, pp. 228-254.