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 International Law Protecting the Rights of Children in Armed Conflicts

The international legal protection of children facing genocide and crimes against humanity is provided through general provisions that apply to children in the situation of armed conflict. The Geneva Convention of 1949, and the two Additional Protocols of 1977, directly recognized such children as having special needs. The 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide protects children by additionally defining the crime of genocide as the forcible transfer of children from one group to another. The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 pays special attention to the protection of children in armed conflicts and also the prevention of recruitment of children for direct participation, as child soldiers. The same applies to a regional instrument: the African Charter on the Rights of the Child. The 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, addressing the involvement of children in armed conflict, raises the standard of child recruitment by establishing an age limit of eighteen. The 1998 Rome Statute of the ICC characterizes as a war crime the conscription or enlistment of children under the age of fifteen into national armed forces, or their use as active participants in hostilities. The International Labor Organization's (ILO's) 1999 Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention includes in its definition of the worst forms of child labor the forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.

Besides the protection afforded by such binding international documents, there are numerous declarations, protocols, comments, and reports providing guidance to states in dealing with children in armed conflicts.

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