A Step Forward for Children’s Rights – UN Committee Now Able to Receive Complaints About Rights Violations

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UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Children whose rights have been violated will soon be able to complain directly to Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) after Costa Rica became the 10th country to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure on the 14th January.

Under UN rules the Optional protocol takes effect 3 months after ten countries have ratified it. This means that children or their representatives will be able to submit complaints to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, 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.

But children can only complain to the CRC if their government has ratified the Optional Protocol. As of 14 January 2014 they were Albania, Bolivia, Gabon, Germany, Montenegro, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, Slovakia and Costa Rica.

“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 said.

“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 added, noting that it is the primary responsibility of States to address child rights violations.

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.

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