Children can now seek justice through the UN

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States urged to ratify new treaty so more children can access international justice for rights abuses

14 January 2014: Children whose human rights have been violated will finally be able to bring their cases to the United Nations after a new international treaty was enacted today.

Children suffer human rights abuses all over the world, including being sentenced to death, trafficked into hazardous child labour, and subjected to violence and sexual abuse. They are routinely neglected by decision makers and their views and opinions ignored. Ratify OP3 CRC, an international coalition of children’s rights NGOs, says the UN will now be better equipped to address future violations of children’s rights, and more pressure will be put on countries to ensure children’s rights are respected.

Seeking justice

Until today, and despite its near universal ratification (all countries have ratified except Somalia, South Sudan and the United States), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was the only international human rights treaty that had no mechanism for victims to seek justice internationally when they could not get redress for violations of their rights nationally.

Campaigners are urging governments around the world to ratify the new treaty so more children can access justice at the UN. A State is not bound by the treaty until it ratifies it.

Ratification call

Flore-Anne Bourgeois, from Plan International and Co-Chair of Ratify OP3CRC said: "Children suffer violations of their rights every day through armed conflicts, discrimination, violence in their communities, schools and homes, as well as lack of access to basic services such as education and healthcare, and their views and opinions are systematically ignored. The list is long. It is about time that abuses of children's rights can be brought to the UN.”

“We urge all States to show their commitment to promoting and protecting children's rights by ratifying this new treaty without delay so more children can access international justice."

Violation cases

The new treaty, known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure (OP3 CRC) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2011. The treaty will become active in 3 months’ time after Costa Rica ratified it today. Albania, Bolivia, Gabon, Germany, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Thailand previously ratified.

Cases brought under this new communications procedure will be heard by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN body of 18 independent experts responsible for ensuring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. From 14 April 2014 (3 months from today), victims of all new or ongoing violations in States who have ratified the treaty can start bringing cases to the Committee if no solution is found nationally. The treaty does not cover past violations.

Resources for children and their advocates:

Notes to editors

Ratify OP3 CRC - International Coalition for the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure - is a coalition of international, regional and national non-governmental organisations and networks, human rights institutions and other non-governmental bodies which are committed to achieve rapid ratification and entry into force of the OPCRC on a Communications Procedure (OP3 CRC).

It succeeds the NGO Working Group that coordinated the international campaign for the drafting and adoption of the OP3CRC, under the NGO Group for the CRC, based in Geneva, Switzerland. Its Steering Committee is made up of the following organisations: Child Rights Coalition Asia, Child Rights Connect, Child Rights International Network (CRIN), Eurochild, Kindernothilfe, Plan International, Red latinoamericana y caribeña por la defensa de los derechos de los niños, niñas y adolescentes (Redlamyc), Save the Children, Terre des Hommes International Federation (TDHIF) and, World Vision

Background to the UN complaints procedure for children

What is the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure (OP3 CRC)?

It is an international treaty that allows for complaints to be filed against a State before the Committee on the Rights of the Child alleging a violation of any of the rights in the CRC (and the Optional Protocols on armed conflict, and sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography if the State is a party).

How does OP3 work?

There are 3 types of complaint:

  • Individual complaints - individuals or groups of individuals allege a violation.
  • Inquiries - The Committee can initiate an inquiry into alleged large scale abuse. This doesn't require a specific child or group of children to bring an alleged violation and takes a less judicial model. The Committee can initiate these inquiries itself for large scale abuses.
  • Inter-State communications - one State can lodge a complaint against another. This doesn’t need to identify individual victims and not limited to serious or widespread abuses.

For any State that ratifies OP3 after the Protocol enters into force, there will be a 3 month waiting period before the Committee can receive complaints regarding the State. Complaints can only be filed in relation to violations that took place after the complaints mechanism enters into force in the specific State.

The Committee will only hear complaints if “domestic remedies have been exhausted” - so complainants will have to first challenge the violation in every possible way through the domestic legal system.

If the Committee finds for the victim(s), the Committee will be able to recommend that the government in question offer the child victim(s) remedies such as rehabilitation, reparation, financial compensation or guarantees of non-repetition.

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