Protecting Children from Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict under International Humanitarian Law

Discrepancies between Conventions and Practice of International Criminal Courts and Tribunals

In: Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies

Children enjoy special protection from the harms of armed conflict under international humanitarian law. While the protection of children in armed conflict has been widely researched with regard to recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, the research on protection of children from sexual violence has received less attention. In this paper I look at the protection of children in relation to sexual violence under international humanitarian law and its actualisation in the practise of international criminal courts and tribunals. I consider first how the protection of children from sexual violence under international humanitarian law made its way to Conventions. Second, I explore the case law of sexual violence as a war crime in international courts and tribunals and how the special protection of children is reflected in the case law. I argue that despite a gradual improvement, the provisions of the Conventions have not been recognised particularly well. While there have been cases in which more attention has been paid to sexual violence against children, the practice is mostly incoherent and sporadic: there exists a discrepancy between the Conventions, and the practice of international criminal courts and tribunals.