Friday, January 9, 2009

The Rights of Babes

Noëlle Quénivet's excellent post yesterday on the gaps in international law protecting child soldiers leads me to a related and even more fundamental question, that of the right of children not to be victims of armed conflict. Yesterday, the United Nations reported that 257 Palestinian children have been killed in Gaza and 1,080 wounded since December 27, just over 10 days ago. (And see prior post.) I'm no expert on the conflict, nor on international humanitarian law, but the violation of international human rights law seems quite clear. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Israel has signed and ratified, states in Article 6:
1. States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.
2. States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.
The indiscriminate bombing of crowded civilian areas -- especially where, as in Gaza, children constitute over half of the population -- seems contrary to these requirements. While one could quibble about whether Palestinian children are "under the jurisdiction" of Israel, Article 2 ensures that the CRC applies without regard to national origin of the child, and that a child should not be punished on the basis of the status, activities, or beliefs of their parents. Moreover, it's tough to find a gap between morality and law in this situation -- killing children, whether intentionally or from failure to take adequate precautions, is simply wrong, no matter their nationality or their parents' actions.

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