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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

Chapter eight: Armed Conflict and the Law: Mates or Foes?

“There were lots of girls who suffered violence during the war” (Gakobwa Marie, Burundi Case Study)

A. Introduction

This chapter evaluates the legal protection of young people during armed conflict. Experience suggests that in times of war human rights of combatants and non- combatants alike are not always respected. Indeed, the discussion in the earlier chapters affirms this position. This chapter points out some of the human rights violations that occur during war and armed conflict and examines the international legal framework for the protection of victims of armed conflict.

Generally speaking, there are two bodies of law at the international level that seek to protect young people in situations of war: human rights45 and international humanitarian laws. International humanitarian law (or the law of armed conflict) counterparts are contained in a number of treaties46. Collectively, this body of law sets international standards for the protection of adults and children i.e. persons below the age of 18 (article 1 of the CRC). Notably, Articles 31 and 26 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties requires treaty provisions to be interpreted in ‘good faith’.

This chapter, which is divided into three parts, examines the extent to which the promises contained in international human rights and humanitarian instruments are enjoyed on the ground. In particular it examines some of the violations that occur during war, like the prohibition relating to the use of child soldiers as well as prostitution and rape of young people in times of conflict. Also considered is the right to life that is promised to all. Furthermore, the chapter examines issues surrounding maintenance of children by parents. It is argued that there is a wide gap between the law in principle versus what is put into actual practice. The chapter concludes with the proposition that, in order to provide effective protection to young people in times of war, more is needed than the formal protection framework.

B. Forms of Violation/Gaps in the Law

Although there are several forms of violation that occur in time of conflict, this chapter will focus on the following: use of child soldiers, rape/forced prostitution, threats on the right to life and livelihood as well as the maintenance of children born of combatants. But this is not to deny the existence of other forms of violations. Rather, these violations are used as examples to examine the law in theory and practice.

  • 

    Key human rights treaties include: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 98 (UDHR); nternational Covenant on Civil & Political Rights, 9 (CCPR);

African (Banjul) Charter on Human & Peoples’ Rights, 98 (Banjul Charter); Convention on the Rights of the Child,990 (CRC)

  • nternational Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights, 9 (CESCR)

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    Namely: Convention (V) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, 99 (Fourth Geneva Convention); Protocol Relating to the

Protection of Victims of nternational Armed Conflicts, 9 (Protocol ); Conflicts, 9 (Protocol )

Protocol Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-nternational Armed

9

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