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States must not deny children the chance to access justice


28 February 2012 / AlertNet

Geneva – States must not deny children the chance to access justice at the international level, says child rights organisation Plan International.

Setting a new milestone for child rights the UN for the first time has adopted a complaints procedure to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It allows children to approach the UN if their rights are not being protected nationally and they have exhausted all domestic remedies to seek justice.

For this procedure to become a tangible reality for children, the States need to sign and ratify the new Optional Protocol.

Germany, Brazil, Spain, Finland, Mali, and Peru are among the first twenty States that signed the Protocol in a ceremony at the ongoing UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva today. The Protocol is now officially opened for signature and ratification by member States.

All States that sign up will still need to ratify the Protocol in order to be bound by its provisions and at least ten countries must ratify the Protocol before it can be used.

“The option of UN recourse for children can be a key tool to ensure that States make effective solutions available and accessible to address child rights violations nationally. All States who care about their children’s wellbeing should therefore ratify the protocol without delay,” said Anne-Sophie Lois, Plan’s UN Representative in Geneva.

“More than 20 years after their rights were officially recognised, children finally have a chance to access justice at the highest level. The new instrument needs to be entered into force quickly so it is available to all children who need it,” said Ms Lois.

The Optional Protocol will enhance the implementation of the CRC and its existing Protocols on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

It will allow children and their representatives, if they cannot secure justice in their country, to complain to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child - the international expert body in charge of monitoring the implementation of the CRC and its Optional Protocols.

This development is the result of active campaigning by an NGO coalition representing child rights and human rights NGOs from across the world since 2006. The NGO coalition campaigned for this new instrument to offer children a level of protection equivalent to that provided to adults at the UN level.

The NGO coalition will continue its work to ensure that this third Protocol enters into force as soon as possible. It will also work to raise awareness and understanding about this instrument among adults and children alike, and galvanising public support to ensure this Protocol is used to make a real difference for the protection of children’s rights around the world.

(Anne-Sophie Lois, Plan’s UN Representative in Geneva and Laure Abado, Child Rights Advisor, Plan Sweden, are available for media interviews.)

Notes to editors:

  • The UN official signing ceremony follows the adoption of the third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the UN General Assembly on 19 December 2011 which created this new international treaty.
  • The first 20 States that signed the Optional Protocol on 28 February, 2012 are: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mali, Montenegro, Morocco, Peru, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Uruguay.
  • A complaints or “communications” procedure allows individuals, groups or their representatives, claiming that their rights have been violated by a State that is a party to a Convention, to bring a communication before the relevant UN treaty body; provided that the State has accepted the procedure and that the complainants have exhausted domestic remedies.
  • The protocol will enter into force three months after the tenth ratification and for each subsequent ratification, three months after that ratification.
  • How the CRC complaints procedure is unique in relation to other UN procedures:

-       In reviewing communications, the Committee on the Rights of the Child must follow the principle of the best interests of the child and must have regard to the rights and views of the child;

-       The Rules of Procedure for using the complaints mechanism are to be child-sensitive;

-       Safeguards must be introduced to prevent potential manipulation of children, and the Committee can decline to consider communications that are not in the child's best interests;

-       The identity of any individuals involved in submitting a complaint, including child victims, cannot be revealed publicly without their express consent; and

-       Communications must be submitted with the child victim’s consent, unless the person submitting a complaint can justify acting on the child's behalf without that consent.

  • Plan International is a member of the NGO Group for the CRC which is a network of 80 international and national non-governmental organisations, which work together to facilitate the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The NGO Group has been coordinating the campaign for the third CRC Optional protocol since 2009. Plan is also a member of the International coalition for the ratification of the 3rd OPCRC.

Media contact:

Davinder Kumar
Press Officer, Plan International Headquarters, UK
Mobile: +44 (0) 7739326164
2012 Feb 28