International law establishes that every person, including children, has the right to protection from physical and mental violence.
The protection of children from violence is a key component of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The convention is the most comprehensive treaty on the human rights of children and has been ratified by every country in the world except Somalia and the United States.
Reflecting almost universal consensus on children’s human rights, the convention recognizes that children are entitled to special care and assistance and that the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children. Under article 19 of the convention, youth have the right to protection from “all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s), or any other person who has the care of the child.”
Article 19 of the convention protects youth from private acts of violence and harassment as well as from acts committed by state agents. By its terms, the state’s obligation to protect extends to “all forms” of violence or neglect committed against a child while that child is in the care of another person. In fact, the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s concluding observations on country reports have addressed problems of violence or threats of violence by youth against other youth in schools and other institutions.
The right of children to protection from violence is also found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Under article 24 of the ICCPR, children enjoy the right “to such measures of protection as are required by [their] status” as minors. In addition, both the ICCPR and the Convention against Torture prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
Human Rights Watch views the obligation to protect youth from violence, as delineated in article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as one aspect of the “measures of protection . . . required by [one’s] status as a minor” to which youth are entitled under article 24 of the ICCPR. This view is consistent with the Human Rights Committee’s general comment on the scope of article 24, which notes that “every possible economic and social measure should be taken . . . to prevent [children] from being subjected to acts of violence and cruel and inhuman treatment.”
Protection from violence is also an essential component in securing other human rights. Violence in schools may deprive children of their right to an education on equal terms with their peers. Violence of any type may have serious mental health consequences and infringe on the right of children to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and development.
The obligation to protect requires more than having laws on the books. When children are subjected to abuse and other forms of violence, the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires the state to “promote [their] physical and psychological recovery” in a setting that “fosters [their] health, peer-respect, and dignity.”
 See Rachel Hodgkin and Peter Newell, Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (New York: UNICEF, 1998), p. 246.
 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, arts. 24 and 7, opened for signature December 19, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171 (entered into force March 23, 1976); Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, art. 16, adopted December 10, 1984, 1465 U.N.T.S. 85 (entered into force June 26, 1987).
 General Comment 17, Rights of the Child (Art. 24), para. 3, Human Rights Committee, 35th sess., 1989.
 Ibid., art. 39.