Active Participation of Children in Hostilities

Despite the fact that there is no any particular armed conflict and civil unrest in Ethiopia, it’s becoming common to see persons under the age of 15 carrying a gun in different parts of the country. Although these pictures has been looked as fun by so many people, it becomes more serious when the children carrying the gun used some flags and have some connection with organized groups and parties in the country. Based on this assessment, there is a worry that in any case of an armed struggle or any kind of hostilities there would be some kind of resentment to use those children under the age of 15 to actively participate in situations of conflicts. Thus, the following short legal analysis is made to inform any concerned party about the legal ramification of their activity in using children under the age of 15 to execute their military or any hostility related missions.

  1. Protection of a Child under International law

Children have an ultimate protection under international law. Particularly, International humanitarian law provides broad protection for children. Given the particular vulnerability of children, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 (API and APII) lay down a series of rules according them special protection. The Additional Protocols, the 1989 Convention on the rights of the child and its recent Optional Protocol, in particular, also set limits on children's participation in hostilities.

The 1989 Convention on the rights of the child, which has been almost universally ratified, covers all the fundamental rights of the child. Article 38 extends the field of application of Art. 77 API to non-international armed conflict. Article 38 urges States Parties to take all feasible measures to ensure that those aged of less than 15 years do not take a direct part in hostilities (para. 2) and that priority be given in recruitment to the oldest of those aged between 15 and 18 (para. 3).

In addition to this, the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, adopted on 25 May 2000 extends the following basic protections for children under the age of 15.

  • the States Parties must take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces who have not reached the age of 18 years do not take direct part in hostilities (Art. 1);
  • Compulsory recruitment into the armed forces of persons under 18 years of age is prohibited (Art. 2);
  • The States Parties shall rise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment from 15 years.
  • Armed groups distinct from the national armed forces should not, under any circumstances, recruit (whether on a compulsory or voluntary basis) or use in hostilities persons under the age of 18 years, and the States Parties must take legal measures to prohibit and criminalize such practices (Art. 4).

Particularly, the fourth point has a direct concern in the case at hand. If there is any armed group in the country different from the national armed forces this armed group is prohibited in any circumstances from using persons under the age of 18 in hostilities. In addition, the government is obliged to take measures to prohibit and criminalize such practices.

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Locating Culture in the Best Interest of the Child

The best interest principle is one of the umbrella principles embodied under the CRC which assures the overall development of children to their fullest potential in order to maximize their capacity and become adulthoodThough this principle is a paramount important for the rights of the child, its vagueness impeded its implementation stage due to different wavering concept it has. And the principle of the best interests of the child has been the subject of extensive consideration in academic, operational and other circles.

Member States, parents, communities or any other organs or individuals, who are in charge and care of children and obliged under the CRC, use this legal loophole, which is left undetermined for implementation purposes, interpret it in different ways. As a result of this, the best interest principle left unrealized due to its vagueness, culture, religion and other considerations taken in the implementation of the rights of children. These factors may not always bring about the positive impetus to children in their overall development as was intended by the UN CRC but rather in most of the cases, these factors are seen contravening the spirit and philosophy of the CRC. Furthermore, the roles of parents given under the CRC towards their minor children are determined by parents’ perspectives, culture and religious understandings which many times found contravening the interest of children.

In addition to the above factors, the problems of assessment on the effects of the actions taken towards children are thorny under human understandings. So, obligations towards states, parents or other individuals or institutions imposed by CRC are complicated and difficult to implement because whether the actions taken are best or not to children are unknown at least time wise.

In my discussion, I will address the interpretation of best interest principle in different culture specific actions taken towards children concerning problems of assessment, compatibility of culture and spirit and philosophy of the CRC and the possible legal lacunae created under article 3(1) and article 41 of the CRC.


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The Right to Bail in Cases Involving Sexual Offences against Children

1 Introduction

This post was originally prepared for use in the internal publications of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission in an effort to strengthen the engagement of the Commission in protecting and promoting the rights of victims of sexual offences while at the same time ensuring the due process rights of the accused. However, it never got to see the light of day for reasons unrelated to its content. Now that we are done with the adoption of a criminal justice administration policy and taking up the revision of the criminal procedure code, it may be time to give it another try.

Children are the most vulnerable individuals in our society; they are also the most precious commodity that the world has and have a right to be protected from all forms of abuse

2  Trends in the Prevalence of Sexual Offences against Children

Sexual offences, especially those against children, are among the least reported offences in countries like Ethiopia. This has to do with the private nature of the settings in which the offences take place, the relationship of vulnerability between the victims and perpetrators, cultural tolerance of some forms of sexual violence against children, inaccessibility of the formal legal system to child victims and their families and other structural causes. Whatever the case, it is impossible to draw a comprehensive picture of the prevalence of sexual offences against children in Ethiopia.

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Assessment of National Response to Child Labor in Ethiopia

This post, which was originally part three of a larger report, seeks to assess the national response to child labour in Ethiopia in light of the international standards identified in the previous part of the report. The assessment principally focuses on the ratification of international instruments relevant to child labour and harmonization of legislation with their stipulations. Since Ethiopia does not yet have a comprehensive policy on child labour, the assessment does not directly cover issues that have to be addressed though the policy framework.

1.    Ratification of International Instruments

Ethiopia is a signatory to the UDHR and has ratified the major international human rights instruments including the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) as well as the ACHR and the ACRWC. The ILO Convention Minimum Age Convention 138 (1973) and ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour 182 (1999) have also been ratified.

Table 1: Status of Ratification of Major Child Labor Instruments

International Instrument

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Birth registration and rights of the child


1 Introduction

Birth registration is defined as the ‘official recording of a child’s birth by the State’. It is also a lasting and official record of a child’s existence, which usually include the ‘name of the child, date and place of birth, as well as, where possible, the name, age or date of birth, place of usual residence and nationality of both parents.’

Birth registration is an internationally recognised fundamental right, it is recognised under Article 24 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states that ‘every child shall be registered immediately after birth.’ The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) also stipulates that  

[t]he child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.

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