Committee on Rights of the Child holds fifty-ninth session in Geneva from16 January to 3 February 2012

Committee on the Rights of the Child
BACKGROUND RELEASE

12 January 2012

Situation of Children’s’ Rights in Azerbaijan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Madagascar, Togo, Thailand, Cook Islands and Niue to be reviewed

The Committee on the Rights of the Child will meet at the Palais Wilson in Geneva from 16 January to 3 February 2012 to review the promotion and protection of children's rights under the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols in Azerbaijan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Madagascar, Togo, Thailand, Cook Islands and Niue.

The Committee is a body of independent experts formed in 1991 to monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its State parties. The Convention gives a comprehensive collection of children's rights the force of international law. The Committee also monitors implementation of two Optional Protocols to the Convention: the first on the involvement of children in armed conflict and the second on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. A third Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure was recently approved by the United Nations General Assembly on 19 December 2011. It will allow individual children to submit complaints about specific violations of their human rights under the Convention and its first two Optional Protocols. The Protocol opens for signature in 2012 and will enter into force upon ratification by 10 United Nations Member States.

To date 193 countries have ratified or acceded to the Convention, making it the most widely accepted international human rights instrument. Only Somalia and the United States have not ratified it. States parties to the Convention are expected to send representatives to the Committee to present reports on their efforts to implement children's rights. States must report initially two years after acceding to the Convention and then every five years. The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of “concluding observations”.

At the session, Azerbaijan, Myanmar, Madagascar, Togo and Thailand will present their combined third and fourth periodic reports. Cook Islands and Niue will field initial reports. Azerbaijan, Thailand and Togo will also present initial reports on their ratification of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and initial reports on ratification of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict will be delivered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Azerbaijan and Thailand.

The Committee will adopt its agenda and review its organization of work in its opening meeting. During the session, in addition to the consideration of country reports, the Committee will continue its discussion of ways and areas in which cooperation with relevant bodies could be strengthened to enhance the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. The Committee will develop General Comments on the various principles and provisions of the Convention, including three specific articles: the principle of the best interests of the child, the right to health and the right to play.

Six of the eight States parties presenting reports during this session have previously received concluding observations from the Committee, which can be read online via the following hyperlinks: Azerbaijan (19 January 2006) CRC/C/AZE/CO/2; Myanmar (22 May 2004) CRC/C/15/Add.237; Madagascar (22 September 2003) CRC/C/15/Add.218; Togo (24 January 2005) CRC/C/15/Add.25; Thailand (24 January 2006) CRC/C/THA/CO/2; Democratic Republic of the Congo (21 January 2009) CRC/C/COD/CO/2.

Concluding observations, initial and periodic reports, information from other sources (such as non-governmental organizations) and other documents from this and previous sessions can be found on the Committee’s webpage.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child

The General Assembly adopted the Convention unanimously on 20 November 1989, 30 years after the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of the Child. The Convention renders States parties legally accountable for their actions towards children. Work on drafting the Convention began in 1979 – the International Year of the Child – at the Commission on Human Rights. The Convention was opened for signature on 26 January 1990. That day, 61 countries signed it, a record first-day response. It entered into force just seven months later, on 2 September 1990.

Ratifying the Convention requires a review of national legislation to ensure it meets the provisions of the treaty. The Convention, inter alia, stipulates that every child has the right to life, and that States shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child; that every child has the right to a name and nationality from birth; and that the child's best interests shall be a primary consideration when they are dealt with by courts, welfare institutions or administrative authorities. The Convention recognizes the right of children to be heard.

States shall ensure that each child enjoys full rights without discrimination or distinction of any kind, and that children should not be separated from their parents, unless by competent authorities for their well-being. States shall facilitate reunification of families by permitting travel into, or out of, their territories and protect children from physical or mental harm and neglect, including sexual abuse or exploitation. Children with disabilities shall have the right to education, special treatment and care; primary education shall be free and compulsory and discipline in school should respect the child's dignity; capital punishment or life imprisonment shall not be imposed for crimes committed before the age of 18; no child under 15 should take any part in hostilities and children exposed to armed conflict shall receive special protection. Children of minority and indigenous populations shall freely enjoy their own cultures, religions and languages.

Optional Protocols

In May 2000, the General Assembly adopted the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Optional Protocols entered into force in 2002. Currently, 143 countries have ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict; and 151 States have ratified the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. A third Optional Protocol was approved by the United Nations General Assembly on 19 December 2011. It provides for a Communications Procedure to allow individual children to submit complaints regarding specific violations of their rights under the Convention and the first two Optional Protocols.

Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

Although the Convention requires States parties to prohibit the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, this Optional Protocol extends the measures that States parties must undertake to protect children from these violations of their human rights. The Optional Protocol not only defines the sale of children, child pornography and child prostitution, but also provides a non-exhaustive list of acts and activities which shall be criminalized by States parties. This criminalization also includes attempts, complicity, or participation in such acts or activities. The Optional Protocol sets out the bases for States parties to assert jurisdiction over actionable practices relating to the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography (including extra-territorial legislation) and to make provisions about extradition of alleged offenders. Based on the principle of the best interests of the child, the Optional Protocol also sets forth provisions for protecting and assisting child victims during all stages of the criminal justice process. Preventive measures, as well as redress, rehabilitation and recovery of child victims, are also covered. For the implementation of all these provisions, the Optional Protocol asks for a close collaboration among States parties.

Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict

Alongside international humanitarian law, this Optional Protocol establishes that no person under the age of 18 shall be subject to compulsory recruitment into regular armed forces, and imposes an obligation on States to raise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment to at least 16 years. Upon ratification of or accession to the Optional Protocol, countries must deposit a binding declaration stating their minimum age for voluntary recruitment and the safeguards in place to ensure that that recruitment is voluntary. States Parties to the Protocol shall also ensure that members of their armed forces under 18 years of age do not take direct part in hostilities. In addition, armed groups separate from the armed forces of a State should not, under any circumstances, recruit or use in hostilities persons under 18. States parties are required to take all feasible measures to prevent the recruitment and use of children by any groups, including the criminalization of such practices.

Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure

This new Optional Protocol empowers children to complain about specific violations of their human rights under the Convention and its first two optional protocols to an international body. The Optional Protocol was transmitted by the Human Rights Council to the General Assembly in June 2011. It establishes a procedure to bring complaints under the Convention similar to those that already exist for other core human rights treaties. Upon receiving a complaint, the Committee will examine it to determine whether the Convention has been violated. The Committee will guarantee that child-sensitive procedures and safeguards are put in place to prevent the manipulation of the child by those acting on his or her behalf under the Protocol. While it is examining the complaint, the Committee may request the State to adopt interim measures to prevent possible irreparable damage to the child. It may also request protection measures to prevent reprisals, including further human rights violations, ill-treatment or intimidation, for having submitted such complaints. If the Convention is found to have been violated, the Committee will make specific recommendations for action to the State responsible. Under the Optional Protocol the Committee may now initiate inquiries into grave and systematic violations of the Convention and its first two Optional Protocols.

The Protocol opens for signature in 2012 and will enter into force upon ratification by 10 United Nations Member States.

Committee Membership

The Committee is made up of 18 Experts of high moral standing and recognized competence in the field of children's rights. The following members, nominated by the States parties to serve in their personal capacity, have been elected or re-elected to the Committee: Agnes Akosua Aidoo (Ghana, Rapporteur); Hadeel Al-Asmar (Syria); Aseil Al-Shehail (Saudi Arabia); Jorge Cardona Llorens (Spain); Bernard Gastaud (Monaco); Peter Guran (Slovakia); Maria Herczog (Hungary); Sanphasit Koompraphant (Thailand); Hatem Kotrane (Tunisia, Vice-Chairperson); Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea, Vice-Chairperson); Gehad Madi (Egypt); Marta Mauras Perez (Chile, Vice-Chairperson); Pilar Nores de Garcia (Peru); Awich Pollar (Uganda); Kirsten Sandberg (Norway); Kamla Devi Varmah (Mauritius, Vice-Chairperson); Hiranthi Wijemanne (Sri Lanka); and Jean Zermatten (Chairperson, Switzerland).

Tentative Timetable for Consideration of Reports

Following is a tentative timetable for the consideration of reports from States parties to the Convention during this session:

Monday, 16 January

10 a.m. Opening / Adoption of agenda / Submission of reports / Organization of work

3 p.m. Closed meeting

Tuesday, 17 January
10 a.m. Azerbaijan: combined third and fourth periodic reports (CRC/C/AZE/3-4).
3 p.m. Azerbaijan (combined third and fourth periodic reports continued).

Wednesday, 18 January

10 a.m. Azerbaijan: initial reports on the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC/C/OPSC/AZE/1) and the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC/C/OPAC/AZE/1).

3 p.m. Democratic Republic of the Congo: initial report on the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC/C/OPAC/AZE/1).

Thursday, 19 January

10 a.m. Myanmar: combined third and fourth periodic reports (CRC/C/MMR/3-4).

3 p.m. Myanmar (continued).

Friday, 20 January

10 a.m. Madagascar: combined third and fourth periodic reports (CRC/C/MDG/3-4).

3 p.m. Madagascar (continued).

Monday, 23 January

10 a.m. Togo: combined third and fourth periodic reports (CRC/C/TGO/3-4).

3 p.m. Togo (combined third and fourth periodic reports continued).

Tuesday, 24 January

10 a.m. Togo: initial report on the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC/C/OPSC/TGO/1).

3 p.m. Thailand: combined third and fourth periodic reports (CRC/C/THA/3-4).

Wednesday, 25 January

10 a.m. Thailand (combined third and fourth periodic reports continued).

3 p.m. Thailand: initial reports on the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC/C/OPSC/THA/1) and the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC/C/OPAC/THA/1).

Thursday, 26 January

10 a.m. Cook Islands: initial report.

3 p.m. Cook Islands (continued).

Friday, 27 January

10 a.m. Niue: initial report.

3 p.m. Niue (continued).

Friday, 3 February

10 a.m. Closed meeting.

5 p.m. Public closing of the session.

More information, including links to documentation for the fifty-ninth session of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is available at the OHCHR website at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/crcs59.htm

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For use of the information media; not an official record