Children are often the victims of armed conflict. One way in which international law seeks to protect them is by prohibiting their recruitment as child soldiers. Once recruited, however, the question arises as to whether they may or should be targeted and killed in the same manner as an adult in the same position. In this respect, there is relatively little discussion as to what the law is, and – aside from a 2013 think-piece by Frédéric Mégret – even less about what the law should be. This article attempts to kick-start that debate. A survey of international law confirms that child combatants and participants in hostilities may be targeted in the same manner as adults. Mégret’s proposed reform, whereby child soldiers would only be targetable while participating in hostilities, is problematic, but child soldiers should arguably be entitled to some form of additional protection. As such, this article proposes that child soldiers under the age of 12 only be targetable in self-defence, a reform which would better balance the competing considerations of humanity and military necessity.
Fisseha, supra note 46, at 333; K. Abbott, ‘A Brief Overview of Legal Interoperability Challenges for nato arising from the Interrelationship between ihl and ihrl in Light of the European Convention on Human Rights’, 96(893) International Review of the Red Cross 107 (2014), at 112; M. Matthews, ‘The Interaction Between International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law: Seeking the Most Effective Protection for Civilians in Non-International Armed Conflicts’, 17 International Journal of Human Rights 633 (2013), at 637–638.
Matthews, supra note 51, at 638–639; Abbott, supra note 51, at 116; Cryer, supra note 52, at 514; P. Eden & M. Happold, ‘Symposium: The Relationship between International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law’, 14(3) Journal of Conflict & Security Law 441 (2010), at 442; D. Bethlehem, ‘The Relationship between International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law in Situations of Armed Conflict’, 2(2) Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law 186 (2013), at 187; M. Sassòli & L. Olson, ‘The Relationship Between International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law Where It Matters: Admissible Killing and Internment of Fighters in Non-International Armed Conflicts’, 90(871) International Review of the Red Cross 599, at 613.
Matthews, supra note 51, at 637.
Matthews, supra note 51, at 639–640; see also Bethlehem, supra note 54, at 190-191. The same principle applies to civilians who are directly participating in hostilities.
Abbott, supra note 51, at 122–123.
Matthews, supra note 51, at 635.
Falchetta, supra note 7, at 110; Matthews, supra note 51, at 635-636; Fisseha, supra note 46, at 337.
Falchetta, supra note 7, at 111.
See Mégret, supra note 1, at 2.
Huggler, supra note 30.
See Panel Discussion, supra note 6, at 118.
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