The Role of the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Interpreting and Developing International Humanitarian Law

Former Child soldiers in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

By David Weissbrodt,  Joseph C. Hansen, and Nathaniel H. Nesbitt

The interaction between human rights law and international humanitarian law (“IHL”) has received a great deal of scholarly attention.  Much of the inquiry has focused on the conceptual space and normative interplay of these two areas of law.  In support of these analyses, commentators sometimes note the increased presence of IHL in the work of human rights bodies.  Indeed, it is often in situations of armed conflict that many human rights abuses occur.  However, there remains an interesting gap in the debate: while human rights bodies may include international humanitarian law, what are they doing with it? To what extent are they interpreting its protections under a human rights framework? Are they performing substantive or precedential analysis of IHL?

This article addresses one measure of that gap by comprehensively examining the work of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (“CRC” or “the Committee”) as it relates to the interpretation of international humanitarian law. Comprised of eighteen independent human rights experts, the Committee monitors States parties’ implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (“Children’s Convention”) and the Optional Protocols to the Convention. The Committee’s monitoring role is rooted in its review of periodic reports from each State party detailing the State’s progress toward the child rights protections mandated by the Convention. The Committee’s constitutive treaty is unique both in the range of its substantive provisions and in the breadth of its international acceptance: with 193 States parties, the Children’s Convention is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.

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