26 September 2012
The Committee on the Rights of the Child considered this morning Albania’s initial reports under the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which deal respectively with the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and with children involved in armed conflict. The Committee considered the report of Albania under the Convention yesterday.
During the dialogue Committee Members asked questions concerning, among other things, the legal status of victims of trafficking, the protection of victims and witnesses in court cases, support for victims of child prostitution and child pornography, and the criminalization of such acts. The fight against organized crime, the regulation of private security companies and the training of private security personnel were also discussed. The delegation also answered a number of questions that were not answered in yesterday’s consideration of the report submitted by the country under the Convention.
The delegation highlighted a number of measures taken to identify and support the victims and potential victims of trafficking, including the provision of health and psychological support and legal assistance to victims. A specific mechanism was in place to ensure that border checks were carried out and unaccompanied children were identified and offered assistance. Legislation had been passed in recent years which criminalized the trafficking of minors and aimed to reduce and prevent organized crime and human trafficking. The juvenile justice system was being reformed to deal with issues such as the treatment of child victims and the protection of witnesses of crime, as well as the reintegration of juvenile offenders into society.
The delegation was commended for the fact that children under 18 years could not be recruited into the military nor attend military schools, and also for the sanctions in place for those responsible for forcing children into labour. However, the delegation highlighted that it did not have jurisdiction over Albanian immigrants living abroad, because they were not Albanian residents. However, no cases of children employed as soldiers outside Albania had come to the attention of the Ministry of Defence, while the Ministry of Interior Affairs had not heard about any children who had come to Albania as refugees and had been recruited as soldiers.
In initial concluding remarks, Jorge Cardona, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur, said that the dialogue with the delegation had been fruitful and Albania had demonstrated that it was on the right path when it came to making plans and drafting laws. More work needed to be done in terms of implementing those plans and laws, but the delegation seemed to be aware of existing shortcomings. The delegation had shown that the Government had the necessary political will to implement the Convention and its Optional Protocols.
Filloreta Kodra, Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, said that the delegation had been very keen to show that the Government had the political will to improve the situation of children in Albania. The steps that the Government was taking to liberalize, decentralize and deinstitutionalize social services was expected to help the process, as well as ongoing cooperation with, and funding of, civil society and non-governmental organizations.
The Delegation of Albania included representatives from the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, the Ministry of Science and Education, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Permanent Mission of Albania to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 26 September, when the Committee will begin consideration of the third and fourth periodic reports of Canada (CRC/C/CAN/3-4). Tomorrow afternoon Canada will present its report on the Optional Protocol on the sale and exploitation of children (CRC/C/OPSC/CAN/1).
The initial report of Albania on its implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography can be read here:CRC/C/OPSC/ALB/1 and Albania’s initial report on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict can be read here: CRC/C/OPAC/ALB/1.
Questions by the Experts on the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
HATEM KOTRANE, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the Report of Albania under the Optional Protocol, noted that legislation about child pornography was not entirely harmonized with the Optional Protocol and the definition of pornography did not seem to include the possession of pornographic material. The possession of child pornography did not seem to be criminalized as such, and legislation on the criminal responsibility of those involved in such practices was not in line with the Optional Protocol. Which Ministry was responsible for coordinating programmes implementing the Optional Protocol on the sale of children?
Mr. Kotrane also pointed out that another area in which Albanian legislation was not in line with the Optional Protocol was extradition. The fact that extradition was not permitted unless the crime in question had a political character was of grave concern to the Committee, which requested that Albania take the necessary measures to ensure that domestic legislation removed the double criminality criterion and incorporate fully the provisions of the Protocol in domestic law. Information was also requested on extraterritorial jurisdiction.
An Expert said that concerning the rights of victims, children who had been forced into prostitution were not receiving enough support and requested further information on that matter. Also, were there checks at Albanian borders to ensure that children travelling alone were not at risk of being exploited in neighbouring countries? Did all victims of trafficking receive equal treatment, and how did the police and the judicial system collaborate with the units which operated at local level?
Were victims and witnesses of child prostitution offered special protection and what was done to train staff who were present at hearings? Were those proceedings videotaped and did victims face the perpetrator during those hearings? Were there judges who specialized in presiding over cases of child abuse, child prostitution and child pornography? Was there no jurisdiction for a specialized Chamber to deal with juvenile offenders? Also, what alternative penalties were there and what were the different facets of the legislative reform that was being carried out in relation to that matter?
The Committee was aware of the efforts Albania was making in terms of setting up action plans. As part of the Optional Protocols, State parties were required to reform legislation so that the same terminology and definitions would be adopted by the State concerned, for example in terms of forced labour.
Contrary to what is required by the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, the Albanian legislation did not seem to recognize the forced labour of children as constituting a sale of children, an Expert regretted. Was the sale of children illegal? Could the delegation clarify whether they had taken the necessary measures in that direction and had criminalized child pornography and the sale of a child?
Response by the Delegation on the Optional Protocol on the Sale of children
In 2011 the Government approved a set of standard operation procedures for the victims and potential victims of trafficking, in the form of a fundamental document which specified the steps that all responsible bodies should take in order to identify and protect the victims and possible victims of trafficking, including children.
Procedures relating to the treatment of victims of trafficking and the provision of health support had also been adopted. Regarding the protection of witnesses of trafficking, a law had been in place since 2005 which took into consideration the needs of witnesses. Ministries and non-governmental organizations had carried out in collaboration training sessions of staff dealing with trafficking victims in the regional directorates of State police. Moreover, there was a national referral anti-trafficking mechanism which had come into effect and which provided specific aid and legal standing for the victims of trafficking.
The Ministry of Interior had created special facilities where the interviews of child victims of trafficking and prostitution would be held. Interviews were taped, which meant that children did not need to be repeatedly interviewed by the authorities. Consideration had also been given to improvements that could be made to interview facilities in Tirana. In addition, child-friendly facilities in a further three police directorates were being set up, while staff were already undergoing special training. Particular importance was being paid to providing assistance to victims from the first moment they came into contact with the Albanian police, while full-time psychologists were also on hand to offer support.
Albania had a special law for the control and supervision of State borders and specially trained immigration police officers were responsible for dealing with unaccompanied children. The system used by border control officers was linked to international systems and the mechanism in place covered every step of the process. The State border police had detailed standard procedures relating to border checks, which also benefited from the latest technology, including biometric passport readers. Also, a national electronic registry had been established to record the entry of non-Albanians into the country.
Albania believed that effective legislation and strategies were key to combating organized crime and the country had made progress in those areas. In 2009 a law was passed on the prevention of organized crime and human trafficking and in the same year a law on the jurisdiction of foreign authorities in criminal cases was also adopted. In 2010 Albania passed a law on the declaration of speedboats in Albanian territory, which also aimed at combating human trafficking. In addition, an action plan was in place to help fight organized crime and terrorism and to facilitate the exchange of information between law enforcement agencies.
The Head of Delegation confirmed that Albania’s law on the trafficking of minors contained a precise article which criminalized the sale of children. There was a labour inspectorate in Albania and a survey had recently been carried out by the International Labour Organization on child labour in the country.
Regarding the other questions asked by the Committee, the delegation said they could not provide answers today but committed to answer them in writing as soon as possible.
Questions by the Experts on the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict
GEHAD MADI, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the Report of Albania under the Optional Protocol, said that the Committee was pleased to see sanctions in place for those responsible for forcing children into labour, and also that the recruitment of children to the military and to military schools could not occur for persons under the age of 18 years. Mr. Madi further noted that the Protocol prevailed over domestic law, but said it would be desirable that the provisions of the Convention were fully incorporated into national law.
Nevertheless, Albania’s legislation was not entirely in line with the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Mr. Madi asked whether the principle of extraterritoriality applies to war crimes of conscripting or enlisting children in hostilities.
Was there a mechanism to regulate international security companies operating in the country and were children recruited to work for those companies? What was being done to prevent child labour and what mechanisms were there to monitor the situation? What was being done to prevent incidents such as the explosion that had occurred in 2008?
Clarification was requested on the explicit prohibition of the recruitment of children by non-State actors or, in the absence of such legislation, on future plans to adopt such legislation. Information was requested on extraterritorial jurisdiction and extradition issues. Were Albanian children involved in armed conflicts abroad and if so, how did the State party deal with that? Also, were children from other countries employed as military officers in Albania?
Response by the Delegation on the Optional Protocol on Children involved in armed conflict
With regard to the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the delegation said that three years ago the Military Academy of Albania applied the operational standards of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Albania was tied to NATO in terms of defence issues, and was also linked to the Common European Security Policy.
With regard to non-State armed groups and private security firms, a delegate highlighted a 2001 law on private security companies operating in Albania. All companies that wished to provide services in that sector must be duly authorized by the General Directorate of the State Police. In addition, the Act expressly provided that children could not be hired by those companies. In addition, the Albania police ran identity checks on the employees of those companies, and only gave them the green light to operate if everything was in order.
Regarding training, the Ministry of Defence ran a 50-day special training course for security officers of such private companies. The course was followed by a test which students had to pass, before beginning their job, in order to determine if they were able to provide an adequate level of service as required by their employer.
Regarding the explosion at an ex-military ammunition depot near Tirana in 2008, court proceedings were in process and the Government was awaiting the court’s judgement. Consequently a ‘hotspot’ anti-mine project was now being implemented in the Tirana area. The Council of Ministers had provided compensation to the families that had been affected by the explosion.
A delegate said that no case had been reported of children below the age of 18 years being involved in armed conflict. Regarding Albanian immigrants living abroad, the Ministry of Defence did not have jurisdiction over those persons because they were not Albanian residents. No cases of children employed as soldiers outside Albania had come to the attention of the Ministry of Defence. The Ministry of Interior Affairs did not have any information about children who had come to Albania as refugees and had been recruited as soldiers. Albania had bilateral agreements with neighbouring countries, according to which persons who had entered the country illegally were sent back to their country of origin or the country from which they had entered Albania.
Additional Response by the Delegation to Questions on the Convention
Desiring to address a number of issues that were not answered yesterday as part of the consideration of Albania’s report under the main Convention, the delegation stated that the Ministry of Justice was currently reforming the entire juvenile justice system. A working group had been set up to facilitate and oversee the process and the Action Plan for 2012-2015 had set priorities such as developing alternative sanctions for juvenile offenders to detaining them in prison. The reforms also sought to improve support for child victims, strengthen the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders in society and strengthen the protection of victims and witnesses.
Persons who committed honour killings and revenge killings were tried and punished in accordance with Albanian law. Awareness-raising measures had been taken to help change the mentality of the population, while social assistance and support were provided to children and mothers whose families had been involved in incidents resulting from customary law. The Ministry of Education had allocated a special budget to provide home tuition to children whose families had been involved in such incidents so that they would not fall behind on their education. Psychologists had also been employed to provide emotional support to children whose families had been involved in honour and revenge killings. It was encouraging that the number of children receiving home schooling and benefiting from other relevant services had dropped. A number of other projects had been initiated in collaboration with civil society organizations so that computer and music courses would be provided to the children concerned, the aim of which was to help improve the emotional state of the children affected.
Concerning the questions about street children, a delegate said that there was a law in place for the protection of children living in the streets. In addition, a draft plan had been prepared to coordinate the actions of all actors dealing with street children, with input from non-governmental organizations. The State had identified 84 children who were begging in the streets: 16 of those cases had been referred to the competent authorities for prosecution, while other cases had been dealt with at the local level or by non-governmental representatives, and protection orders had been issued for some of the children who were found to be in need of protection. In 2010 the State police had conducted a study based on information and statistics available on street children which took into consideration the background and age of the children involved. The findings of that study were used for the operation plans which were implemented in 2011 and 2012. Furthermore, last month the Labour Inspectorate and the International Labour Organization conducted a survey on child labour in Albania, which would be published shortly.
JORGE CARDONA, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Albania, speaking in initial concluding remarks, said that the dialogue with the delegation had been fruitful. He was sorry that the Minister of Justice had not been able to attend the meeting, which had meant the delegation had some problems responding to all of the questions asked by Committee. Nevertheless, Albania had demonstrated that it was on the right path when it came to making plans and drafting laws. More work needed to be done in terms of implementing those plans and laws, but the delegation seemed to be aware of existing shortcomings. The delegation had shown that the Government had the necessary political will to implement the Convention and the recommendations that the Committee was going to make would contribute to their work.
FILLORETA KODRA, Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, said that the delegation had been very keen to show that the Government had the political will to improve the situation of children in Albania. The steps that the Government was taking to liberalize, decentralize and deinstitutionalize social services were expected to help the process. Cooperation with civil society was ongoing, and a State agency now provided funds to non-governmental organizations working in different fields. The Vice-Minister committed to providing responses to unanswered questions in writing to the Committee by the end of the week.
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