Committee on the Rights of the Child
4 February 2011
Issues Concluding Observations on Reports of Denmark, Afghanistan, Belarus,
the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, New Zealand, Ukraine, Singapore and Mexico
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its three-week-long fifty-sixth session and issued its concluding observations and recommendations on the twelve reports from eight countries that it considered over the course of the session.
In closing remarks, Yanghee Lee, the Committee Chairperson, said that the Committee had considered seven reports under the Convention, three initial reports to the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and two reports to the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, bringing the total of reports considered at the current session to twelve reports. The Committee also adopted a series of decisions during this session, including elaborating a future general comment on the right to play. It also decided to request the General Assembly to be able to hold one session each year with two parallel meetings to work faster through the growing backlog of reports the Committee had to consider.
The Chairperson also said that the Committee had not adopted the report on its current session, as it had decided to hold a special meeting on Friday, 11 February to finalize its general comment number 13 on the right of the child to protection from all forms of violence and maltreatment. The Committee would then also adopt the report of the session at that special meeting. The Committee had also decided to create a focal group to prepare the upcoming day of general discussion, which would be devoted to children of prisoners.
Lothar Friedrich Krappmann, the Committee Rapporteur, said that the Committee had been very pleased to receive the report of Afghanistan after 13 years of waiting, which was understandable due to the current situation in the country. In average, countries were sending their reports three years late. The waiting period for the consideration of reports by the Committee was currently two years and was expected to continue to grow. He then talked about the various side-events and meetings Committee Experts had attended during their stay in Geneva. He also bid farewell to his colleagues as he was leaving the Committee.
The Committee’s next session will be held from 30 May to 17 June 2011, when it will consider the reports of Bahrain, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland and Iceland under the Convention and the reports of Egypt under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
Final Observations and Recommendations on Reports Presented Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Regarding the fourth periodic report of Denmark, the Committee noted with appreciation the adoption of, among others, the Child Reform Act which entered into force in January 2011 and the Act on Parental Responsibility of 2007. The Committee also welcomed the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse in 2009. The Committee welcomed the legislative action undertaken by the State party that had direct bearing on the lives of children, including those regarding parental responsibility and day care. The Committee welcomed the proposed establishment in Greenland of an independent Children’s Council, based on the Paris Principles. The Committee welcomed the State party’s forthcoming ban on the sale of alcohol to persons under the age of 18 years. The Committee further welcomed the high standards of the reception centres for unaccompanied children seeking asylum.
While noting that the Convention might be invoked and applied by the courts and administrative authorities, the Committee noted with concern that the Convention was referred to only in a limited number of cases and that the application of the Convention by judicial authorities and administrative decision-making bodies was limited, due largely to the Convention not being fully incorporated into the national legislation of the State party. The Committee noted that the Danish National Council on Children did not fulfill the role of an Ombudsman and took note with concern of the State party delegation statement that there was no intention to establish an Ombudsman for Children in Denmark given the existence of an Ombudsman on Public Administration to whom complaints by or for children could be submitted. The Committee was concerned that insufficient resources had been allocated for the realization of the right to education for children in Greenland and the Faroe Islands. It was also concerned at the prevalence of bullying in schools and at the lack of clarity in the law as to the responsibility of school authorities.
The Committee noted with concern that corporal punishment was lawful in the home and alternative care settings in the Faroe Islands and that, although a Government Circular on School Discipline stated that corporal punishment should not be used, there was no explicit prohibition in law. The Committee thus urged the State party to take measures to ensure that corporal punishment was prohibited in all settings and throughout its territory. The Committee was concerned at the envisaged reduction of allowances to parents of children with disabilities who needed to withdraw from the labour market to care for their children and strongly recommended that the State party reconsidered these planned reductions. The Committee also recommended that the State party strengthen its efforts to combat obesity among children and adolescents, including by ensuring access to health advice and care, including in schools, to healthy foods, and adequate opportunities for engaging in physical activity.
Having considered the initial report of Afghanistan, the Committee noted with appreciation, inter alia, the adoption of the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women in 2009; the Law on Counter Abduction and Human Trafficking in 2008 and the Juvenile Code in 2005. The Committee also welcomed the ratification by the State party of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee further welcomed, inter alia, the establishment of the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Children and Armed Conflict in 2010; the adoption of the National Action Plan of Action against Trafficking and Kidnapping of Children in 2004; the adoption of a Child Protection Action Network; and the establishment of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. The Committee noted some progress made in 2009 to increase birth registration. The Committee commended the State party for the remarkable expansion of the educational system in the last decade with regard to the number of schools, trained teachers and enrolled children, including the notable increase of girls’ enrollment. The Committee further commended the State party for its efforts to provide assistance to returnee and internally displaced children, especially those who had been internally displaced between June 2009 and July 2010 in the Helmand and Badghis provinces.
The Committee noted with concern that in spite of recent legislative developments in the field of child rights, the State party did not consider the Convention as a legally binding instrument in the internal order and had therefore not incorporated it systematically into the domestic legal system in order to make it applicable. The Committee was also concerned that child rights continued to be negatively affected by the application of different sources of law, namely codified, customary and Sharia laws and that legislation contradictory to the Convention remained in force. The Committee was further concerned about the low implementation of legislation enacted in the field of child rights due mainly to weak enforcement, limited level of awareness of the legal norms promulgated, widespread corruption and the application by courts of provisions of customary or Sharia law which infringed the principles and rights contained in the Convention. The Committee welcomed the creation of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the establishment by the Commission of a specific Child Rights Desk. It was however concerned about the nomination procedures of the Commission’s members which might not fully guarantee their independence from political influence, the insufficient financial support provided by the State party to the Commission and the limited expertise of its child rights field monitors. The Committee was also concerned that the general level of awareness about the Convention remained extremely limited and that training on child rights reached a limited number of professionals working with or for children.
While welcoming the recent establishment of a Children’s Secretariat to coordinate the implementation of the Convention, the Committee was however concerned that this Secretariat had been placed within the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Martyrs and the Disabled which might limit its cross-sectoral impact. The Committee thus urged the State party to allocate principal responsibility for the coordination and evaluation of implementation of the Convention to a single mechanism with full authority and capacity to coordinate children’s rights implementation across all ministries and other agencies which were responsible for the State Party’s obligations under the Convention. The Committee was also concerned that there was no comprehensive policy and strategy for the attainments of child rights which could be linked to the Afghan National Development Strategy and to the national budget and recommended that the State party develop a comprehensive policy and strategy for children closely linked to the Afghan National Development Strategy appropriately resourced, and covering all specific plans of action relating to different aspects of child rights. The Committee expressed deep concern that in spite of the establishment of mechanisms to combat it, corruption had attained alarming levels in the State party, directly impacting children’s enjoyment of their rights. The Committee thus urged the State party to take immediate measures to efficiently prevent and combat corruption and prosecute acts of corruption.
Following its examination of the combined third and fourth periodic report of Belarus, the Committee welcomed as positive a series of legislative measures, including completing and amending certain Acts regarding State protection of children in dysfunctional families in 2008 and the Act on social protection of young orphans of 2005. The Committee also noted with appreciation the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography in 2006. The Committee further noted the adoption of several plans and programmes relating to the rights of the child, including the 2004-2010 National Plan of Action for improving the situation of children and for protecting their rights, the 2006-2010 Presidential Programme “Children of Belarus”, as well as more than 20 sectoral programmes. The Committee noted the closure of several residential care institutions accompanied by progress towards expanding the system of family-type care and increasing the number of national adoptions.
The Committee regretted that the State party had not undertaken a complete review of its legislation in order to harmonize it with the Convention, as recommended by the Committee in 2002. It was further concerned that children’s rights in the State party seemed to be governed mainly by Presidential decrees, rather than laws enacted by the Parliament. The Committee was concerned that not all of these decrees had been transformed into laws adopted by Parliament, and that this process was too slow. While welcoming the intention to increase the proportion of gross domestic product allocated for children in the plans for 2011-2015, the Committee regretted that the budgeting process in the State party did not allow clear identification of the resources allocated to children, which prevented the tracking of expenditure on children and the evaluation of its impact. The Committee remained concerned at the extent of gender-based discrimination in the State party and at the absence of legislation specifically prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. The Committee was also concerned about harassment of Roma children, and that they experienced discrimination in relation to access to health care, education and social services.
Concerned that the National Commission on the Rights of the Child had not been active for the last two years, but noting information from the State party delegation that a new National Commission on the Rights of the Child was planned from 2011, with an amended composition, the Committee recommended that the State party either strengthen and reactivate the National Commission on the Rights of the Child, or establish a new effective system of coordination for the implementation of the Convention, and ensure effective coordination mechanisms established at national, regional and local levels. Noting the high number of stateless persons in the State party, and concerned at the lack of data on the number and condition of stateless children residing in the State party, the Committee urged the State party to ensure the implementation of the right of all children to acquire a nationality, as far as possible, in order to prevent statelessness. Inter alia, it should collect data on stateless children. Concerned that corporal punishment was lawful in the home, not explicitly prohibited in institutions, including in the penal system and alternative care settings, and that it was widely accepted in the society, the Committee reiterated its recommendation that the State party prohibit all forms of corporal punishment at home, in schools and other institutions.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic
Having examined the second periodic report of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Committee noted with appreciation the promulgation of the Law on the Promotion of the Rights and Interests of Children in 2007. The Committee also welcomed the accession by the State party to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime 2000. The Committee noted that progress was being made in establishing systems for collecting data on child rights. The Committee noted with appreciation that the State party’s Constitution and the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Children had established the best interests of the child as a principle to be observed in all actions undertaken with regard to children. The Committee further welcomed the State party’s declaration in 2000 of its polio-free status, the 2007 national campaign for measles vaccination which achieved more than 90 per cent immunization and the decrease in infant mortality over the last decade.
While noting the development of a national Plan of Action against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, the Committee noted with regret that there was no broader Plan of Action on children that would address the rights of the children enshrined in the Convention in their entirety. The Committee noted that the Constitution prohibited ethnic and gender discrimination, among others. Nevertheless, the Committee was concerned at reports of continuing inequalities in treatment of certain ethnic groups in terms of access to basic services, financial and other resources, decision making and capacity development opportunities. The Committee also noted with concern that girls did not have the same opportunities in the field of education as boys. While the Committee noted that corporal punishment was prohibited in primary schools, it was concerned at reports that some teachers used physical punishment as a means of discipline.
The Committee noted that the status of the Convention was unclear and that the Constitution did not give prevalence to its provisions over national laws. The Committee thus encouraged the State party to take appropriate measures to ensure that the Convention on the Rights of the Child was part of its internal law and had prevalence over other national laws and that it was possible to apply the Convention’s provisions directly in a court of law. The Committee noted with concern that parents adopting a child under the age of ten could change the child’s first name without the consent of the child. The Committee recommended that the State party take appropriate legislative or other measures to ensure that the principles of the best interests of the child and the preservation of the child’s identity were given priority consideration in all requests to have a child’s name changed. Concerned that early marriages continued to exist within certain ethnic groups, even though the practice was prohibited by law, the Committee urged the State party to enforce sanctions penalizing early marriage.
Regarding the combined third and fourth periodic report of New Zealand, the Committee welcomed, inter alia, the adoption of the Care of Children Act in 2004 and the enactment of the Children’s Commissioner Act in 2003. The Committee noted with appreciation the increase in expenditure on children in recent years and the tax-credit initiative to reduce poverty. The Committee also welcomed the new section of the Crimes Act, which abolished the legal use of parental force for the purpose of correction. The Committee welcomed the efforts undertaken by the State party to tackle the problem of abuse and neglect of children, in particular the increased efforts undertaken in the area of prevention such as through increased funding, the establishment of the Family Violence Ministerial Team, the Taskforce for Action on Violence within the Family, and the establishment of the Independent Experts Forum.
The Committee noted with concern that in spite of recent legislative developments in the field of child rights, the harmonization of national law with the Convention and its Optional Protocols was not completed (for example, in the area of adoption legislation) and that not all domestic laws affecting children were harmonized even amongst themselves. While welcoming that training on child right was provided to police officers, probation offices and teachers working with children, the Committee regretted that such training did not reach all professionals working with or for children. The Committee further regretted that a child’s consent was not required for domestic adoptions and that the review of adoption legislation was currently on hold. The Committee also noted with regret that in cases of adoption that were not “open adoptions”, the adopted child did not have access to his/her file, with the name of its biological parents, until the age of 20.
The Committee regretted that awareness of the Convention remained limited, including among parents, caregivers, teachers, youth workers and children and recommended that the State party strengthen and expand its dissemination and awareness-raising activities in order to ensure that the provisions of the Convention were widely known by the general public. The Committee remained concerned at continuing manifestations of discrimination against the Maori population, including children, as evidenced by their unequal access to services. The Committee thus recommended that the State party ensure full protection against discrimination on any grounds by taking urgent measures to address disparities in access to services of Maori children and their families; by strengthening its awareness-raising and other preventive activities against discrimination; and by taking all necessary measures to ensure that cases of discrimination against children in all sectors of society were addressed effectively.
Following its consideration of the combined third and fourth periodic report of Ukraine, the Committee welcomed as positive the adoption of a series of legislative and other measures, including the Law to Combat Child Pornography of 2010, the Law on Social Protection for Orphans and Children deprived of Parental Care of 2005, the National Plan of Action for Children 2010-2016 and the National Strategic Action Plan for HIV prevention among children and youth of risk groups and HIV vulnerable people in 2010. The Committee noted as positive the appointment by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights of a Special Representative on Child Protection, Equality and Non-Discrimination as well as the establishment of a Department for Child Protection and Gender Equality in the Office of the Commissioner. It welcomed that the Commissioner had made violence against and trafficking in children and women areas of priority and commended its “Special Report on State Observation and Protection of the Rights of the Child in Ukraine” of 2010. The Committee further welcomed the establishment of free helplines for children at risk or in need of protection, such as “Trust Line” and those established by “La Strada-Ukraine”, as had been recommended by the Committee.
While welcoming that the Convention and other international treaties took precedence over domestic law in case of conflict between them, the Committee was concerned that domestic legislation on the rights of the child remained inadequate, with significant scope for further legislative implementation of the Convention and its Optional Protocols. The Committee was also concerned at the current low quantity and weak quality of information material on the Convention and at inadequate training of professional groups dealing with children. In particular, the Committee was concerned at limited training on children’s rights for law enforcement officers, health professionals, social workers, teachers, immigration officials, members of the judiciary and representatives of the media. The Committee was further concerned that, despite its previous recommendation, the minimum legal age of marriage discriminated between boys (18) and girls (17). The Committee was furthermore concerned that registration of marriage of children aged 14 to 18 was allowed under the Civil Code if in the best interests of the child. The Committee also reiterated its concern that a clear legal minimum age for sexual consent had not yet been established.
In view of the large number of ethnic minorities in the State party, the Committee was concerned at the absence of measures taken by the State party to identify and solve problems faced by ethnic minorities and that no data collection system on their situation regarding education, employment, housing and access to social services was in place. The Committee thus urged the State party to, inter alia, adopt without delay the draft Anti-Discrimination Bill and to undertake a comprehensive study on the situation of ethnic minorities in the State party. The Committee strongly recommended that the State party undertake the necessary measures for establishing a separate independent national mechanism, in full accordance with the Paris Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions, to ensure comprehensive and systematic monitoring of children’s rights. To this end, the Committee recommended that the State party consider adopting the Law on the Introduction of the Ombudsman for Children in Ukraine. The Committee was also concerned that infant, child and maternal mortality in the State party remained high and it recommended that the State party intensify its efforts to address infant, child and maternal mortality by strengthening prenatal, obstetric and neonatal health care services. The Committee further recommended that the State party increase the number of qualified health professionals working in prenatal, obstetric and neonatal care and ensure that they were trained on and promoted child-responsive parenthood and health lifestyle.
Upon reviewing the combined second and third periodic report of Singapore, the Committee welcomed, inter alia, the amendment of the Penal Code, in October 2007, which criminalized child sexual exploitation; the amendment of the Constitution in April 2004 allowing children to acquire citizenship through their Singaporean mothers; the establishment of the Children Care Court in May 2008; and the introduction of the dedicated court process “Children’s Best Interests, Less Adversarial” (CHILD). The Committee also welcomed the various initiatives that were undertaken by the State party to raise awareness of the Convention amongst children and the public at large. The Committee further noted with appreciation the State party’s efforts to provide parenting education and financial assistance to families as well as the establishment in 2007 of the Inter-Ministry Committee on Dysfunctional Families to provide better support to families with high need. The Committee further noted with appreciation the sustained excellent level of health indicators and the wide availability of high-quality-health-care services in the State party.
The Committee noted with concern that in spite of recent legislative developments, the Convention, which was not directly applicable in the State party, had not yet been fully incorporated into domestic legislation. The Committee also noted as positive the various sectoral strategies developed concerning children. However, it was concerned that the strategies were rarely accompanied by concrete action plans for their implementation. The Committee also remained concerned that the State party had not developed a comprehensive national plan of action for the implementation of the Convention. The Committee further welcomed the amendment of the Administration of Muslim Law Act, which rose that minimum marriage age from 16 to 18 years for Muslim females, but regretted that the Children and Young Persons Act still did not cover children between the ages of 16 and 18. The Committee, while noting the education programmes and guidelines that restricted and discouraged the use of corporal punishment, reiterated its deep concern that corporal punishment, including caning, was still considered a lawful form of discipline in the family, schools and institutions.
Concerned by the fact that the Inter-Ministry Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child’s mandate still does not include coordination of all policies and programmes for children, the Committee recommended that the State party expand the mandate, function and capacity of the Inter-Ministry Committee to include coordination of all programmes and policies for children. Concerned that the State party had not established an independent mechanism to regularly monitor fulfillment of the rights of children under the Convention and to receive and independently investigate complaints on the violations of the rights of children, the Committee urged the State party to establish such an independent mechanism in accordance with the Paris Principles. Concerned about the insufficient data on, inter alia, violence against children, child victims of trafficking, and sexual exploitation of children, the Committee recommended that the State party strengthen its mechanisms for data collection by establishing a national central database on children and developing indicators consistent with the Convention.
Final Observations and Recommendations on Reports Presented Under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict
After having reviewed the initial report of Belarus under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Committee welcomed the State party’s declaration upon ratification restricting voluntary recruitment into the armed forces to persons who had attained the age of 18 years (with the exception of enrolment into a military academy). The Committee further welcomed that the Optional Protocol had the status of law in the State party. The Committee welcomed that schools teach a special course on children’s rights, and that children learn about the Optional Protocol. The Committee also welcomed Presidential Order No. 383-Z of 15 July 2002 on meeting the international obligations arising from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe document on small arms and light weapons.
The Committee was concerned that training on the provisions of the Optional Protocol seemed to be inadequate. It was also concerned that awareness of the Optional Protocol among the general public was low. While noting the reduction in numbers, the Committee was concerned that the number of military schools for children was still high, and at the prevalence of military structures responsible for these schools. The Committee was particularly concerned that boys entered the Minsk Suvorov Military School, which reported directly to the Ministry of Defence, and which included military instruction in the curricula, at the age of 12-13 years; that children could enrol as cadets in the Military Academy from the age of 17 and thus were considered as members of the armed forces from that age; and at the activities of the military-patriotic summer camps for general school students, which took place on the premises of military units, and which included the introduction to weapons. The Committee welcomed the amendment of the Criminal Code which made it a criminal offence to recruit persons under 18 years of age into armed groups other than the national armed forces or to involve them in hostilities as part of such armed groups. The Committee, however, regretted the lack of a definition of “direct participation in hostilities” in the State party’s legislation.
The Committee regretted the insufficient data relating to the implementation of the Optional Protocol and recommended that the State party establish a central data collection system with a view to collecting information and statistics on the implementation of the Optional Protocol, and for the identification and registration of all children under its jurisdiction who might have been recruited or used in hostilities by non-State armed groups abroad, including refugee and asylum-seeking children. The Committee recommended that the State party consider establishing jurisdiction for all offences under the Optional Protocol committed abroad by or against persons under its jurisdiction, without requiring that such acts also constituted a crime in the State where they were committed. The Committee also urged the State party to reflect in law an explicit prohibition of trade and export of small arms and light weapons to countries where children were involved in armed conflict.
After having considered the initial report of Mexico under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Committee welcomed the ratification by the State party of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 2005 and noted with satisfaction the efforts made by the State party to enhance the respect for human rights, particularly in the Ministry of Defence. The Committee also welcomed the proposed reform of the Penal Code which aimed to criminalize recruitment and the use of children in hostilities.
The Committee was concerned that the State party’s interpretative declaration to Article 4 of the Optional Protocol seemed to exclude or modify the legal effect of this article’s application to the State party, thus in fact making it a reservation. It welcomed, however, the State party’s commitment to reviewing this declaration. The Committee noted that a number of government entities were involved in the implementation of the Optional Protocol, and that the coordination was not clear between the different Ministries at the federal and state level. The Committee was concerned that children who studied in military schools had military status and, if they broke the law, were subject to the Military Code of Justice. The Committee was further concerned at reports that students in military schools had taken part in the fight against drug trafficking, by participating in the search for and destroying of illegal drugs, which seriously jeopardized the rights and lives of children. The Committee was further concerned that military schools were managed solely by the Ministry of Defence. The Committee also expressed its great concern at the high number of child victims (about 1,000 dead children over the last 4 years) as a result of the fight of the army against organized crime, child rights violations and the lack of investigation of crimes perpetrated by military personnel.
While noting the State party’s declaration upon ratification of the Optional Protocol declaring 18 years as the minimum age for voluntary recruitment to the armed forces, the Committee was concerned at the exception to this minimum age which set 16 years as the minimum age in signals units for training as technicians. The Committee was also concerned that, according to the Military Service Act article 25, early enlistment was allowed for 16 and 17 year old children who wished to leave the country at the time when they would be required by law to undertake military service, and for “those who are obliged to request early enlistment because of their studies”. The Committee thus recommended that the State party revoke article 25 of the Military Service Act, end the practice of early enlistment for 16 and 17 year old children, and raise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment to 18 years, without exceptions. The Committee was further concerned that the State party lacked information on the use of children by non-State armed groups, and therefore it had not undertaken measures to prevent the recruitment of children by non-State groups. The Committee thus recommended that the State party take all the necessary measures to ensure that no children were recruited by non-State armed groups, including by identifying and monitoring the various non-State armed groups in the country, including paramilitary groups, organized crime groups and security companies.
Following its examination of the initial report of Ukraine under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Committee noted as positive the declaration made by the State party upon ratification that the minimum age for the voluntary joining into its national armed forces was 19 years. The Committee also welcomed the endorsement by the State party in 2007 of the Paris Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces or armed groups and the Paris Principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups. The Committee also welcomed that training on children in armed conflict, including the Convention and the Optional Protocol, was mandatory for Ukrainian military personnel participating in international peacekeeping operations. The Committee further welcomed the provision of assistance to children involved in armed conflict, including health and social rehabilitation to Iraqi children living in a zone of armed conflict in 2004 and psychological and social assistance for refugee children who had participated in hostilities abroad at Centres for Family Support or Centres of Social and Psychological Rehabilitation.
The Committee, while taking note of information that under a provision in the Constitution the Optional Protocol had the status of national law, regretted that the State party had not clarified whether the Protocol was directly applicable throughout its jurisdiction and could be directly invoked before domestic courts. The Committee was concerned at the lack of systematic data collection on aspects relating to children involved in armed conflict and offences under the Optional Protocol, including official statistics of asylum-seeking and refugee children of 15 to 18 years of age. In this regard, the Committee was concerned that a majority of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children were from countries where children had or were known to have been involved in armed conflict. While the Committee took note of Article 8 of the Criminal Code pursuant to which foreigners could be held liable for grave crimes and crimes stipulated in international treaties, it was concerned that the Criminal Code did not specifically allow extraterritorial jurisdiction for crimes under the Optional Protocol.
While noting information that provisions of the Convention and the Optional Protocol were discussed during educational and training activities for teachers, health care workers, and public civil servants working on children’s issues, the Committee remained concerned that awareness of the principles and provisions of the Optional Protocol among the general public remained low and recommended that the State party enhance its efforts to make the principles and provisions of the Optional Protocol widely known to the public at large, and to children in particular. The Committee was deeply concerned at the export of small arms and light weapons to countries where children had been recruited or used in hostilities and at export of weapons to countries where they might pose threat to children. Further, the Committee was concerned at the lack of legislation specifically prohibiting the trade and export of small arms and light weapons to countries where children were or might have been involved in armed conflict. The Committee thus recommended that the State party ensure that domestic legislation explicitly prohibited trade and export of small arms and light weapons to countries where children were known to have been or were involved in armed conflict.
Final Observations and Recommendations on Reports Presented Under the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
Having considered the initial report of Belarus under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Committee noted with appreciation the State party’s programme on Countering Human Trafficking, Illegal Migration and Unlawful Deeds Related Therewith 2008-2010. The Committee noted the various plans and programmes related to the rights of the child, as well as the National Plan of Action on Trafficking 2011-2013. The Committee noted with appreciation information on the State party’s efforts to suppress the production and dissemination of child pornography, particularly on the Internet.
The Committee was concerned about the approach of the State party toward the sale of children, which it viewed as an integral part of human trafficking rather than a separate issue. The Committee was concerned that the criminal code of the State party did not cover all the offences included in the Optional Protocol. However, it welcomed information from the State party delegation that it would review its legislation again, taking into account the recommendations of the Committee. The Committee was further concerned that certain protection measures such as the presence of a teacher or a psychologist during the questioning of child victims or witnesses were only applied for children up to the age of 14 years. The Committee furthermore regretted that engagement in prostitution for children above 16 years was considered an administrative offence.
The Committee regretted the lack of clarity about which State institution, among the more than 15 ministries engaged in efforts to prevent the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, had the main responsibility for the implementation of the Optional Protocol and recommended that the State party establish a national coordinating body or mechanism in charge of implementing the Optional Protocol. The Committee regretted that the State party’s legislation did not establish criminal liability of legal persons and recommended that the State party establish the liability of legal persons for all offences covered under the Optional Protocol.
Having considered the initial report of Mexico under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Committee noted with appreciation the Law on Refugees and Complementary Protection, approved by the Senate in December 2010, the Law against Trafficking of 2007 and the decree amending the Federal Penal Code, Federal Code of Criminal Procedure and the Federal Law against organized Crime with respect to commercial sexual exploitation of children.
The Committee noted that SNDIF (Sistema Nacional para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia) was the coordinating body for the implementation of the Optional Protocol, but it remained concerned that a child-rights comprehensive approach across all sectors had not yet been established. While welcoming the State party’s efforts to make trafficking and sexual exploitation of children known by the public, such as the sensitization campaigns on radio, TV and in print media, the Committee was concerned that these campaigns did not sufficiently take into account all the provisions of the Optional Protocol. The Committee was concerned that children and the general population, including indigenous children, did not have adequate knowledge to identify the risks related to the offences covered by the Optional Protocol or where and how to report cases. While welcoming that the State party had introduced several initiatives to prevent sexual exploitation and trafficking of children, including the programme with children “difusores de derechos”, the Committee regretted that measures to prevent the offences referred to in the Optional Protocol were still inadequate, as evidenced by the massive quantity of child pornography produced in the State party, the large number of child sex tourists, as well as the high number of children involved in prostitution.
The Committee noted the State party’s legislation relating to trafficking, but was concerned that the sale of children was not explicitly criminalized and reminded the State party that it was obliged under the Optional Protocol to prohibit the sale of children in law and in practice, a concept which was similar to trafficking in persons but not identical. The Committee was concerned that the budget allocations to the relevant institutions for implementation of the Protocol at the national and state levels were insufficient in order to implement the provisions of the Optional Protocol. The Committee thus encouraged the State party to increase budget allocations for coordination, prevention, promotion, protection, care, investigation and prosecution of acts covered by the Optional Protocol. While noting efforts to combat child sex tourism, including the elaboration of codes of conduct with the tourism industry, the Committee was nevertheless concerned at the still high level of child sex tourism in the State party, especially in tourist areas and recommended that the State party undertake preventive measures, including awareness raising efforts, to combat child sex tourism; and properly investigate, prosecute and punish all cases.
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