International Humanitarian Law (IHL) provides a framework for the protection of children during armed conflict. The relevant provisions are primarily found in the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977, as well as in customary international law. Here are some key aspects of the protection of children in IHL:

  1. Protection and Care: IHL mandates that children affected by armed conflict should receive special care and protection. This includes ensuring access to essential services such as healthcare, food, and education.
  2. Prohibition of Attacks: The deliberate targeting of children or indiscriminate attacks that harm children is strictly prohibited under IHL. Parties to a conflict must take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to children and avoid actions that may cause unnecessary suffering.
  3. Recruitment and Use as Child Soldiers: IHL prohibits the recruitment or use of children under the age of 15 in armed forces or groups. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict sets 18 as the minimum age for direct participation in hostilities and requires parties to take measures to prevent recruitment and use of child soldiers.
  4. Family Reunification: IHL recognizes the importance of family unity and mandates efforts to reunite separated children with their families whenever possible.
  5. Special Protection Measures: Special protection measures should be provided to children who are particularly vulnerable during armed conflict, such as unaccompanied minors, children with disabilities, and children separated from their families.
  6. Education: Parties to the conflict must facilitate access to education for children, taking into account their specific needs and circumstances.
  7. Humanitarian Access: IHL requires parties to allow humanitarian organizations and agencies access to provide assistance to children affected by armed conflict.
  8. Accountability and Justice: Perpetrators of crimes against children during armed conflict should be held accountable under both international and domestic law. This includes prosecuting individuals responsible for attacks on children or recruiting them as child soldiers.
  9. Awareness and Training: States and armed groups are encouraged to raise awareness about the protection of children in armed conflict among their personnel and to provide training on relevant legal obligations.
  10. Monitoring and Reporting: International organizations, such as the United Nations, often monitor and report on violations of children’s rights during armed conflict, advocating for their protection and holding perpetrators accountable.

Overall, the protection of children in armed conflict is a fundamental aspect of international humanitarian law aimed at safeguarding their rights, well-being, and future development despite the challenging circumstances of conflict.