LEGAL STATUS OF CHILD SOLDIERS IN INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW (Status dzieci zolnierzy w miedzynarodowym prawie humanitarnym)
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The paper presents an international ban on recruiting and using children in armed hostilities. Relevant provisions are contained in the international humanitarian law of armed conflicts (I and II Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions of 1977) and the international human rights law (especially Convention of the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol of 2000). The second part of the paper considers the issue of legal status of children who directly take part in armed hostilities. Children who are engaged in international armed conflicts and participate in armed hostilities as a member of regular armed forces or 'levée en masse' are combatants (and eventually they are entitled to POW's status). The ban on their recruitment and engagement in hostilities is addressed to States Parties of Additional Protocols of 1977. If children participate in armed conflicts but are not covered by any of the mentioned above categories, they are still 'protected persons' within the meaning of IV Geneva Conventions of 1949. If they do not fulfill conventional criteria of nationality, they are still under the protection under Article 75 of I Additional Protocol. In situations of non-international armed conflict all persons taking part in hostilities (irrespectively of age) may be called to account under domestic criminal law for their acts committed during the civil war. At the end, a few remarks are made about criminal responsibility (accountability) of children soldiers and the issue of their physical rehabilitation and psychological or social reintegration.
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