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UN body now able to hear individual children complaints

Children’s rights boosted as UN body now able to hear individual complaints

GENEVA (14 January 2014) – Children whose rights have been violated will soon be able to complain to a key UN Committee after a new legal instrument on the rights of the child was ratified by the required 10 countries.

Costa Rica became on 14 January* the 10th country to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure, meaning that it will take effect in three months.

Children or their representatives will be able to submit complaints to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which will then decide whether to review the case. Where a violation is found, it will recommend that the State concerned takes action to remedy the situation.

“The Optional Protocol gives children who have exhausted all legal avenues in their own countries the possibility of applying to the Committee,” said CRC Chair Kirsten Sandberg. “It means children are able to fully exercise their rights and are empowered to have access to international human rights bodies in the same way adults are under several other human rights treaties,” she added.

“It is a major step forward in the implementation of children’s rights, but at the same time we urge States to develop their own systems to ensure that children’s rights are respected and protected and that their voices can be heard,” Ms Sandberg said, noting that it is the primary responsibility of States to address child rights violations.

Individual children or groups of children will be able to submit complaints about specific violations of their rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and under the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child pornography and child prostitution. But they can only complain to the CRC if their government has ratified the Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure.

“We applaud the countries that have ratified it and call on other States to take this step too,” Ms Sandberg said. The CRC Chairperson stressed that the Committee’s overriding concern would be the best interests of the child.

“We will have child-sensitive procedures and also safeguards to ensure the child is not being manipulated or used to make the complaint. And at all times we will work for the rights of the child and take that child’s views into account,” said Ms Sandberg.

The Committee may ask the State to take interim measures to protect the child or the group of children or prevent any reprisals. At the end of the review, if the State concerned is found to have violated the Convention, the Committee will issue specific recommendations which the State must implement.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child is composed of 18 international independent human rights experts who monitor the implementation of the Convention and the Optional Protocols by States parties.

Countries that have ratified the Optional Protocol as of 14 January 2013: Albania, Bolivia, Gabon, Germany, Montenegro, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, Slovakia and Costa Rica.

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