International laws and child rights

Topic Selected: War and Conflict

General Article icon Type: General Article

Over the past 40 years, international law has developed to better protect children from military exploitation.

In 1977, the Additional Protocols to the 1949 Geneva Conventions prohibited the military recruitment and use of children under the age of 15, which is now recognised as a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (2002). It applies to both government-controlled armed forces and non-state armed groups.

The prohibition on the use of children under 15 was reaffirmed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), which also defined a child for the first time as any person under the age of 18.

The standard was raised again by the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, also known as OPAC (2000). OPAC was the world’s first international treaty wholly focused on ending the military exploitation of children. The treaty prohibits the conscription of ch

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