IRRC No. 240

Protection of Children in International Humanitarian Law

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The legal protection of children was introduced into international humanitarian law after the Second World War. Experience during that conflict had, in fact, pointed to the urgent need to draw up an instrument of public international law for protecting civilian population in wartime. The results of the ICRC's efforts in this field led to the adoption of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war. From that time on, children, as members of the civilian population, were entitled to benefit from the application of that Convention. Moreover, the first international humanitarian law regulations concerning armed conflicts not of an international character, contained in article 3, common to the four 1949 Geneva Conventions, were drawn up at the 1949 Diplomatic Conference. Here again, children were protected, in the same way as all “persons taking no active part in the hostilities”.

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