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Protecting Children in Armed Conflict

By: Shaheed Fatima QC
Media of Protecting Children in Armed Conflict
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Published: 20-09-2018
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 600
ISBN: 9781509923038
Imprint: Hart Publishing
Dimensions: 244 x 169 mm
RRP: £130.00
Online price : £117.00
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About Protecting Children in Armed Conflict

In armed conflicts around the world, children are being killed, raped, abducted and recruited to fight at a shocking scale. In light of this continuing general failure to protect children in conflict, it is questionable whether existing international law norms and institutions provide sufficient protection and accountability. Consideration needs to be given to whether international law can do more – practically and effectively – when moral lines are crossed.
That is the purpose of this book. It reviews the position of children in armed conflict by reference to the 'six grave violations' as identified by the UN Security Council. It analyses the protection offered by international humanitarian law, international criminal law and international human rights law, and also assesses the related adjudicative accountability mechanisms. The analysis concludes with a number of recommendations and proposals for reform, with a view to enhancing accountability and deterring future violations.

The book has been written by a team of lawyers, headed by Shaheed Fatima QC, and has drawn on the input of an expert advisory panel comprising leading academics, policy-makers and activists. It has been written as part of the Inquiry on Protecting Children in Conflict. The Inquiry has been sponsored by Save the Children and Theirworld and chaired by former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

Table Of Contents

1. General Introduction
I. Introduction
II. The Machel Report: Overview
III. Time to Re-Assess the Protection of Children
IV. Children in Armed Conflict: 1923–1996
V. The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children: The 1996 Machel Report
VI. Following in Machel's Footsteps: Developments Since 1996
VII. The Six Issues Considered in this Book
VIII. Conclusion and Summary
2. Legal Sources, Structure and Accountability Mechanisms
I. Introduction
II. Relevant Sources of International Law
III. General Problems with the International Law Framework
IV. Accountability Mechanisms
V. General Problems with Accountability Mechanisms
VI. Conclusion and Summary
3. Killing and Ill-Treatment of Children
I. Introduction
II. Legal Framework
III. Accountability Mechanisms
IV. Conclusion and Summary
4. Recruitment and Use of Children
I. Introduction
II. Legal Framework
III. Accountability Mechanisms
IV. Conclusion and Summary
5. Sexual Violence
I. Introduction
II. Legal Framework
III. Accountability Mechanisms
IV. Conclusion and Summary
6. Child Abduction
I. Introduction
II. Legal Framework
III. Accountability Mechanisms
IV. Conclusion and Summary
7. Attacks Against Hospitals and Schools
I. Introduction
II. General Rules Relevant to Attacks Against Hospitals and Schools
III. Attacks Against Hospitals
IV. Attacks Against Schools
V. Conclusion and Summary
8. Denial of Humanitarian Access and Assistance
I. Introduction
II. Setting the Scene
III. Legal Framework
IV. Accountability Mechanisms
V. Conclusion and Summary
9. Conclusion
I. Introduction
II. Specific Suggestions
III. General Suggestion: A New Legal Instrument
IV. Accountability
V. Conclusion and Summary


“Many international laws prohibit subjecting children to wartime harms like killing, sexual violence, abduction, deprivation of basic necessities, and conscription. This comprehensive synthesis of the most significant frameworks – international criminal law, international humanitarian law, and international human rights law – provides an essential starting point for strengthening child protection during armed conflict.” –  Diane Marie Amann, Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law and Faculty Co-Director of the Dean Rusk International Law Center, University of Georgia School of Law,

“This book is a clarion call for concerted action to improve the protection of children in armed conflict in international law. It is a rigorous and comprehensive study that exposes the current shortcomings in existing international law. It offers convincing recommendations for significant improvements, which would not only clarify the obligations of parties to armed conflicts towards children but also enhance accountability mechanisms. The reader is left with one conclusion: implementing its recommendations is a moral obligation.” –  Eyal Benvenisti, Whewell Professor of International Law, University of Cambridge,

“The U.N. reports more than 10,000 children who were killed or maimed in wars last year. In this masterful report, Shaheed Fatima and her colleagues demonstrate the deficiencies of our existing laws in protecting children in armed conflicts. They also meet the challenge of putting forward detailed and thoughtful proposals for reform. Though the authors are careful to acknowledge that law is only one part of a much larger problem, they are correct that strengthening the legal regime would also call greater attention to the urgent need to protect children in armed conflicts by all means. As numerous children around the globe continue to be victimized by armed hostilities, no government can choose to ignore this compelling report or the proposals it sets forth.” –  Gabriella Blum, Rita E. Hauser Professor of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Harvard Law School,

“This book is not only an accessible and detailed guide to the relevant international law, but it will also surely set the agenda on this issue for years to come. It is brimming with imaginative and practical ideas to improve protection and accountability for violations of children's rights in times of armed conflict.” –  Andrew Clapham, Professor of International Law, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,

“Despite the complex subject matter, this book is navigable and accessible for legal and non-legal audiences alike. It provides a comprehensive guide to the intricate web of international law covering children in armed conflict, and related accountability mechanisms, revealing how children are too often denied effective legal protection. Fatima demonstrates how – with requisite political will – the international community could better safeguard the rights of children bearing the brunt of conflict. Grounded in detailed legal analysis, this book provides an urgent and powerful call to action on behalf of those without a seat at the table.” –  Andrea Coomber, Director, JUSTICE,

“As this book shows only too well, much remains to be done if the rights of children in conflict are to be effectively protected. Children are still being killed, tortured, abused, forcibly recruited and abducted, and attacks on children, too often, are intended precisely as attacks on the very future of communities. This study focuses on these, the gravest violations that can devastate the lives of children in conflict, but it also looks to what could lie ahead, if the political will were there to gather the law in one place and, above all, to strengthen accountability and ensure a reckoning for wrongs done. Children need and demand something better if they are to grow and to reach their full potential in that small, yet so valuable space that childhood allows. And now is the time to act.” –  Guy S. Goodwin-Gill, Professor, Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia; Emeritus Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford,

“A study of the utmost importance about what we can do to protect children from the evils of war.” –  Sir Christopher Greenwood CMG QC, Judge, Iran-US Claims Tribunal; Judge, International Court of Justice (2009–2018); Professor of International Law, London School of Economics (1996–2008),

“A thorough, timely and sadly necessary survey of what can be done to improve international law and accountability mechanisms to address the horror of many millions of children being caught up in war. Governments around the world would do well to study this volume and heed its recommendations.” –  The Right Honourable, the Lord Hague of Richmond, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (2010-2014); Leader of the House of Commons (2014–2015); Leader of the Opposition (1997–2001),

“This impressive study of the existing legal framework for the protection of children in international and non-international armed conflict and its shortcomings has been produced by a group of leading practitioners and academics. It is scholarly, practical and insightful and is likely to prove an important stimulus to the much-needed development of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in this field.” –  Lord Lloyd-Jones, A Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom,

“This is an outstanding and substantial book. It explores in close detail all the relevant areas of IHL, IHRL and ICL with skill and insight. It brings together and clarifies the complex and scattered aspects of IHL, IHRL and ICL concerning children in armed conflict in a sophisticated and authoritative way, with very impressive coherence in structure and methodology across the chapters. The research is of a high quality and intellectually engaging, and has been applied appropriately to various practical situations, with clear and compelling recommendations.” –  Robert McCorquodale, Professor of International Law and Human Rights, University of Nottingham; barrister, Brick Court Chambers,

“This new book draws much-needed attention to one of the most urgent and neglected issues of our time, of how to protect children in the face of armed conflict. In war zones around the world, grave violations of children's rights continue to be carried out with impunity. This is an important and timely contribution to the debate on how to hold perpetrators to account, and uphold the rules that are designed to keep children safe.” –  Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark 2011–2015; CEO, Save the Children International,

“War is the most chronically tragic of human endeavors, all the more so when it, as it almost always does, victimizes our children and therefore our shared future. In this exceptional study, based on the Inquiry on Protecting Children in Conflict, Shaheed Fatima QC, aided by a group of distinguished collaborators, examines the system and content of those international law norms that protect this vulnerable group during armed conflicts. It is a moving account of the facts on the ground, a surgically precise and thorough dissection of the applicable law, and a powerful call for action. Perhaps most important are its practical and incisive targeted suggestions for addressing shortfalls in the law and its implementation. If there was ever a book that deserves to have an impact on the face of war, this is it.” –  Michael Schmitt, Professor of International Law, University of Exeter; Charles H. Stockton Professor, US Naval War College; Francis Lieber Distinguished Scholar, US Military Academy at West Point,

“The continuous victimisation of children in situations of armed conflict constitutes a painful reminder to the inadequacies of the international system of humanitarian and human rights protection, which was intended to remove these most vulnerable human beings out of harm's way. Unfortunately, Prof. Hersch Lauterpacht's observation from 1952 that "international law is, in some ways, at the vanishing point of law" and that "the law of war is, perhaps even more conspicuously, at the vanishing point of international law” still holds true in the sense that, for child victims of armed conflict, the protection of international law is too often a mere chimera. It is this sad reality that the new book on Protecting Children in Armed Conflict, written by the superbly erudite lead author, Shaheed Fatima, and a team of practitioners and academics, effectively tackles, building on previous initiatives to enhance protection for children in armed conflict, such as those recommended in the 1996 Machel report to the UN General Assembly.
This comprehensive book, which grew from a report for an inquiry into the protection of children in armed conflict headed by UK former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is a 'must read' book for all lawyers, academics and other professionals involved in efforts to improve existing levels of protection in armed conflict and in promoting children's rights in general, and in situation of armed conflict in particular. Its main strength lies in the combination of studying the “trees” and the “forest” - thoroughly and critically reviewing the details of special protection regimes, dealing with the killing and ill-treatment of children, their recruitment, sexual abuse and abduction, and their protection against attacks on hospitals and schools and denial of humanitarian assistance, while advancing as a central insight the idea that the lack of a comprehensive legal approach and the lack of a comprehensive accountability mechanism that cuts across the different special protection regimes constitute a serious practical shortcoming of the existing protection system. The book's sophistication also manifests itself in its emphasis on the linkage between improved legal protection and the acute need for political support for legal reforms.
Protecting Children in Armed Conflict provides us with a clear and incisive diagnosis of the existing legal deficiencies, as well as with a useful and promising legal road map for improving upon the existing system of protection of children in armed conflict situations. One can only hope that the ongoing horror of child victims in armed conflicts around the world will eventually create the political conditions to implement the excellent and pragmatic legal recommendations laid down by Fatima and her team.
” –  Yuval Shany, Hersch Lauterpacht Chair in Public International Law, Hebrew University; Chair, UN Human Rights Committee,

“This book addresses one of the great moral and legal questions of our era - namely, why is the vast array of humanitarian law, international criminal law, and human rights law that is designed to protect children in conflict violated so systematically, and with such impunity? Shaheed Fatima offers more than a brilliant dissection of the international legal architecture. She throws down the gauntlet to a system that is failing to protect desperately vulnerable children from Syria to Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan and Myanmar. Beyond the razor sharp legal analysis, this book is a call to action for governments, international agencies, the UN and non-government organisations. It should be mandatory reading for anyone concerned to see the rule of international law applied to the benefit of the millions of children living in war zones.” –  Kevin Watkins, CEO Save the Children UK,

“This book is a thorough, objective and impressive account of the currently scattered rules of international law relating to the protection of children in armed conflict; what the law is, and how it might be improved. Detailed recommendations are made for the clarification and development of existing law. This includes a far-sighted proposal for an eventual single international legal instrument, with its own accountability mechanisms. This book is an invaluable resource for all involved in this vital field of law, both its present and its future. Governments, in particular, should consider the recommendations for change.” –  Sir Michael Wood, Member of the UN International Law Commission; Legal Adviser to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (1999-2006),

“Topical, focused and well-written, this book contributes to clarifying, strengthening, and developing, legal protections for children in armed conflict.” –  Gentian Zyberi, Professor of International Law and Human Rights, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo,

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