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Children In Armed Conflict

Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow
 said Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam but the world now is endeavouring to sacrifice children to ensure that the present generation achieves its revolting goals.

Thousands of children are serving as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. These boys and girls, some as young as 8 years old, serve in government forces and armed opposition groups. They may fight on the front lines, participate in suicide missions, and act as spies, messengers, or lookouts. Girls may be forced into sexual slavery. Many are abducted or recruited by force, while others join out of desperation, believing that armed groups offer their best chance for survival.[1]

Combat and support roles

In many conflicts children take direct part in combat. However, their role is not limited to fighting. Many girls and boys start out in support functions that also entail great risk and hardship.

One of the common tasks assigned to children is to serve as porters, often carrying heavy loads, including ammunition or injured soldiers. Some children act as lookouts, messengers, cooks or other routine duties. Girls are particularly vulnerable. They are often forced to serve as sexual slaves. Moreover, the use of children for acts of terror, including as suicide bombers, has emerged as a phenomenon of modern warfare.[2]

The question that one asks at this juncture is how do we define a child solider?

Who is a child solider? In  Paris Principles on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict 2007 a child solider has been defined as A child associated with an armed force or armed group refers to any person below 18 years of age who is, or who has been, recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as fighters, cooks, porters, spies or for sexual purposes.

What does International Law say?

Humanitarian assistance

Humanitarian access is crucial in situations of armed conflict where civilians including children are in desperate need of assistance. Denial of humanitarian access entails blocking the free passage or timely delivery of humanitarian assistance to persons in need as well as the deliberate attacks against humanitarian workers.

Reasons of denied or hampered access

It is estimated that in today’s conflicts around the globe, 80 millions of children are denied humanitarian assistance. Access can be denied or hampered by parties to conflict for security or political reasons.[3] In many parts of the world, humanitarian assistance is sometimes interrupted because of ongoing fighting.

Justice and children

Until recently, violations against children during armed conflict have gone largely unpunished and perpetrators of such crimes have not been held accountable. Yet, over the past 20 years, the international community has set up a number of new accountability mechanisms with the aim of ending impunity for violations against children.

Protection of children in judicial proceedings

The difficulty for victims to come forward in judicial proceedings and face their memories and their assailants is often underestimated. If they speak, there could be reprisals on them or their families. If they testify, they will have to be able to undergo a vigorous cross-examination that often results in re-living horrific events. Balancing participation and the protection of children during court proceedings is of great importance. Closed sessions, voice and image distortion, screens between the witness and the accused, as well as pre- and post-statement counselling are all useful methods to protect child witnesses from possible consequences when they testify.

Syria and child Soliders:

Syria being the worst hit in the recent times has claimed the lives of several children and their childhood in lieu of the on going war.

Children report being actively encouraged to join the war by parties to the conflict offering gifts and 'salaries' of up to $400 a month."

Since 2014, warring sides have recruited younger children, it said, some as young as seven. More than half of children recruited in cases UNICEF verified in 2015 were under 15.
Children have been filmed executing prisoners in grisly propaganda videos by the Islamic State group.

Outside Syria, 306,000 Syrian children have been born as refugees, it said. U.N. refugee agency UNHCR says nearly 70,000 Syrian refugee children have been born in Lebanon alone.
UNICEF said 3.7 million children had been born since the conflict began, a third of all Syrian children.[4]

Some 2.8 million Syrian children in Syria or neighbouring countries are not attending school. Dozens of schools and hospitals were attacked in 2015, according to aid groups.

Conclusion:
A childhood without books – that would be no childhood. That would be like being shut out from the enchanted place where you can go and find the rarest kind of joy said Astrid Lindgren; and here we are witnessing millions of children holding, not books, but guns. It is the need of the hour to discuss and find a solution to protect children from the clutches of a dark life and let bring them towards knowledge and brightness.

End-Notes:

  1. https://www.hrw.org/topic/childrens-rights/child-soldiers
  2. https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/effects-of-conflict/six-grave-violations/child-soldiers/
  3. https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/effects-of-conflict/six-grave-violations/denial-of-humanitarian-access/
  4. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-children-idUSKCN0WG0R0


Written by: Sayed Qudrat Hashimy - International Law Students
E-mail : [email protected] / Phone no. +91 9008813333

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