Committee on Rights of the Child concludes fifty-fourth session

Committee on the Rights of the Child
ROUNDUP 11 June 2010

Issues Conclusions on Reports of Argentina, Belgium, Former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia, Grenada, Japan, Nigeria, Tunisia, Colombia and Serbia

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its three-week fifty-fourth session after issuing its concluding observations and recommendations on 18 reports, from 9 countries, which it considered in parallel chambers over the course of the session.

In closing remarks, Yanghee Lee, the Committee Chairperson, noted that, during its fifty-fourth session, Committee members had considered seven periodic reports under the Convention on the Rights of the Child – from Argentina, Belgium, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Grenada, Japan and Nigeria; five initial reports under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict – from Argentina, Colombia, Japan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia; and six initial reports under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography – by Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Japan and Serbia. The Chairperson noted that due to the recent earthquake in Guatemala the delegation of that country had been unable to attend the fifty-fourth session so the Committee would consider that country’s periodic report when it met in September.

Lothar Friedrich Krappmann, the Committee Rapporteur, speaking on other activities of Committee Experts during the fifty-fourth session, noted that working in two chambers had meant most of the Committee’s activities had been devoted to the review of reports. However, Committee members held a retreat before the beginning of the session to discuss their methods of work and some members of the Committee participated in an international panel on the subject of the right to education. Many Committee Experts continued to speak at discussions, panels and seminars on child rights being human rights. Mr. Krappman pointed out that the Committee also had a notable exchange with non-governmental organizations and it was reminded of the crucial need to reaffirm their commitment to topics they must address in the future.

The Committee's next session will be held from 13 September to 1 October 2010 in Geneva, when it will consider 18 reports: the periodic reports of Angola, Burundi, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Guatemala under the Convention; the initial reports of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Nicaragua and Sierra Leone under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and the initial reports of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Sudan under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Concluding Statements

YANGHEE LEE, Committee Chairperson, in her concluding statement, said that during the fifty-fourth session, Committee members had worked in parallel chambers and considered seven periodic reports under the Convention – from Argentina, Belgium, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Grenada, Japan and Nigeria. The Committee also considered five initial reports under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict – from Argentina, Colombia, Japan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia as well as six initial reports under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children – by Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Japan and Serbia. The Chairperson then formerly adopted the concluding observations and noted that due to the recent earthquake in Guatemala the delegation of that country had been unable to attend the fifty-fourth session so the Committee would consider that country’s periodic report in its next session to be held in September. The Chairperson wanted to express the greatest concern with documentation services. There were some documents that consistently failed to be translated in time for the Committee’s dialogue with countries. During this session, State party reports and written replies were not translated into three working languages in a timely manner. This not only undermined the work of the Committee, it also contributed to a loss of credibility for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Chairperson said she found this unacceptable. The Committee continued to improve its working methods and called on all relevant parties and departments to help with improving this issue. The Chairperson then adopted the tentative programme for the fifty-fifth session, to be held in September 2010.

LOTHAR FRIEDRICH KRAPPMAN, Committee Rapporteur, in concluding remarks, spoke about other activities Committee members were involved in during the fifty-fourth session. Mr. Krappman said that the Committee Experts often had to work through lunch and into the evening to get through their concluding observations and to reduce the Committee’s backlog. There were numerous events and meetings on the agenda aside from reviewing the country reports, and the Committee began their work the Sunday before the opening of the session with a retreat, where they held a thorough discussion of general comment on article nineteen. Mr. Krappman had begun a survey of the Committee members to find out other activities they had been involved in, but he was unable to canvas all of them to provide a complete list of their activities. Nonetheless, he did say that many Committee members participated in an international panel on the subject of the right to education and many of them continued to speak at discussions, panels and seminars on child rights being human rights. Mr. Krappman pointed out that the Committee also had a notable exchange with non-governmental organizations and it was reminded of the crucial need to reaffirm their commitment to topics they must address in the future.

Final Observations and Recommendations on Reports Presented Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Argentina

Following consideration of the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Argentina, the Committee welcomed the ratification of several international human rights instruments, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Convention Against Torture and the Convention on the on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The Committee was also pleased to note the establishment of a National Commission on Refugees and the creation of the Commission for Monitoring of Institutional Treatment of Children.

The Committee, however, expressed concern that a mandate holder for the office of Ombudsperson for Boys, Girls and Adolescents, had not been appointed by Parliament. The Committee also noted that corporal punishment was not explicitly prohibited outside the home, including in schools, detention centres and alternate care settings and it remained concerned about child labour in the country and the high percentage of adolescents who were subject to economic exploitation, in particular in rural areas, with associated problems such as high repetition rates, frequent absences and late arrivals to school.

The Committee recommended that the State party take all necessary measures to expedite the appointment by parliament of the Ombudsperson with the mandate to receive and investigate complaints from, or on behalf of, children on violations of their rights and the office should be provided with the necessary human, technical and financial resources. The Committee also urged Argentina to explicitly prohibit by law corporal punishment and all forms of violence against children in all settings, including in the family, schools, alternative childcare and places of detention for juvenile offenders, and implement those laws effectively. The State was also urged to ensure children were enrolled in school and strengthen its structures to eliminate child labour.

Belgium

Having examined the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Belgium, the Committee was pleased to note Belgium’s appointment of an ombudsperson in the German community on 17 May 2010, the establishment of the National Commission for the Rights of the Child in 2006 and the adoption of the 2005-2012 National Action Plan for the Children. The Committee also welcomed the ratification of several international human rights instruments, including the 1993 Hague Convention No. 33 on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption and the 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The Committee noted with concern that child care was still primarily focused on placing children in residential institutions and that the French Community had the highest rate of institutionalized children below three years in Europe. The Committee noted with serious concern the extent of child abuse in the State party and the fact that abuse was the second cause of infant mortality in Flanders and that mortality resulting from abuse of children in the State party was very high, higher than in most OECD countries. The Committee was also concerned that one third of all abuse cases were cases of sexual abuse and that sexual abuse was still qualified by the criminal code as a crime against morality rather than as a violent crime.

The Committee recommended that the State party review its legal framework to prevent the placement of children in institutions and to this aim, provide families with social and economical assistance for parenting and legal aid, if necessary. The Committee called upon the State party to elaborate a comprehensive national action plan against abuse and neglect and to ensure the necessary resources for a significant increase of services for the prevention, coordination of abuse prevention, and specific care for maltreated children. The Committee also called upon the State party to qualify sexual abuse as a violent crime.

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

After a review of the second periodic report of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, The Committee welcomed the following positive developments, aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of children: the establishment of a National Commission on the Rights of the Child; the entry into force of the law on juvenile justice introducing restorative justice and prevention of juvenile delinquency; and the adoption of the 2009-2012 Action Plan for the prevention and countering of sexual abuse and paedophilia, addressing the protection and assistance of child victims, and envisaging the establishment of a coordinated system for cooperation among government institutions and between government and non-governmental organizations.

The Committee voiced concern that there remained a number of children who lacked registration and identity documentation, many of whom were children in street situations and Roma children, and that there was lack of a strategy for identifying children who lacked birth registration and/or identity documentation. The Committee also deeply concerned about allegations of solitary confinement, corporal punishment and use of batons against juveniles in the Educational-Correctional Institution. The Committee was concerned about the persisting inadequacy of educational, social and health services for children with disabilities and their families. In particular, the Committee noted that there remained many obstacles to ensuring equal access to education for children with disabilities.

The Committee urged the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to undertake a survey to identify children lacking birth registration and/or identity documents, and to take immediate administrative and judicial measures to ensure the retroactive birth registration and issuing of documents for these children. The Committee recommended that the State party take immediate measures to remove batons and to abolish the use of corporal punishment in the Educational-Correctional Institution. The Committee recommended that the State party develop a comprehensive policy for the protection of children with disabilities and for their equal access to social, educational and other services and to undertake greater efforts to make available the necessary resources, especially at the local level, and to promote and expand community-based and family-focussed programmes.

Grenada

Regarding the second periodic report of Grenada, the Committee welcomed the ratification by the State Party of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The Committee did note that Hurricane Ivan (2004) and Hurricane Emily (2005) caused significant damage in the State party, impacting the entire population, and the Committee recognised that these natural disasters, along with the current global financial crisis, had been significant obstacles to the implementation of the Convention.

Among concerns, the Committee noted that with the exception of the Ombudsperson Bill, a number of bills on issues related to child rights had not yet been passed. The Committee regretted that the Convention had still not been integrated into national legislation. It was also concerned that there were insufficient human and material resources to draft legislation and to implement legislation that has been passed. The Committee expressed its deep concern that at least one-third of the child population was affected by sexual abuse, that incest was a significant problem and that it was rare for children to report when they had been abused, mainly due to fear of stigmatisation. The Committee was also concerned that transactional sex and the “Sugar Daddy phenomenon” had become widespread.

The Committee urged the State party to take all appropriate measures to expedite the adoption of the Status of the Child Bill, the Childcare and Adoption Bill, the Domestic Violence Bill and the Juvenile Justice Bill and to ensure adequate human and financial resources for full implementation of the provisions of these laws when adopted. The Committee also recommended that the State party take immediate action to address the issue of sexual abuse, including incest, through identification, detection, reporting, prevention and intervention services; take steps to raise awareness about the need to report sexual abuse and exploitation; take appropriate measures to ensure the prompt prosecution of perpetrators of sexual offences against children; and implement appropriate policies and programmes for prevention, recovery and social reintegration of child victims.

Japan

Having considered the third periodic report of Japan, the Committee welcomed a number of positive developments, including the adoption of the Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons (December 2009) and the Resolution on Urgent and Effective Promotion of Comprehensive Measures against Suicide to facilitate coordination of efforts to reduce suicide rates, adopted in July 2005. The Committee also applauded Japan’s adoption of several legislative measures, including amendments to the Child Abuse Prevention Law in 2004 and 2008, pursuant to which, the definition of child abuse was reviewed, the responsibilities of national and local governments were clarified and the obligations to report cases of abuse were expanded.

The Committee remained concerned about suicides committed by children and adolescents and at the lack of research on the risk factors associated with suicides and attempted suicides. The Committee also expressed concerned that, in spite of several legislative measures, children born out of wedlock still do not enjoy the same rights as children born in marriage under the laws governing intestate succession. It was concerned that societal discrimination persisted against children belonging to ethnic minorities, children of non-Japanese nationality, children of migrant workers, refugee children and children with disabilities.

The Committee recommended that Japan research suicide risk factors among children, implement preventive measures, equip schools with social workers and psychological consultation services and ensure that the child guidance system did not impose additional stress on children in difficult circumstances. It also recommended that the State party ensure that institutions with facilities for children, public or private, adhere to appropriate minimum safety standards. Regarding discrimination against children, the Committee suggested that the State party enact a comprehensive anti-discrimination law and repeal all legislation which discriminates against children on any basis; and that it take the necessary measures to reduce and prevent discrimination in practice, particularly against girls, children belonging to ethnic minorities, children of non-Japanese origin and children with disabilities.

Nigeria

Regarding the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Nigeria, the Committee commended a number of positive developments in the reporting period, including the adoption of legislation enacting the Child Rights Act in twenty-four states of the federation; the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration (Amendment) Act of 2005; the National Policy and Guidelines for the Establishment and Monitoring of Child Care Centres in Nigeria; the National Policy on Adolescent Health of 2006 and the Integrated Maternal, Newborn and Child Health; the National Plan of Action on Orphans and Vulnerable Children; the National Child Policy and National Child Health Policy of 2007; and the Action Plan developed by the National Population Commission for a permanent and sustainable birth registration system.

The Committee was seriously concerned by reports related to an estimated forty prisoners reportedly on death row for crimes committed when they were below the age of 18. The Committee was also gravely concerned about the impact of inter-communal and political violence on children, including reports that children had been victims of extrajudicial killings by law enforcement agencies. Ethnic conflict was also referred to as among the main causes of orphanage. The Committee remained extremely concerned at the reportedly widespread practice of the witchcraft stigmatization of children in the State party and reports that these children were tortured, abused, abandoned and even killed as a result of such stigma and persecution.

The Committee recommended that Nigeria take the necessary steps to bring the system of juvenile justice fully in line with the Convention and ensure that neither the death penalty nor life sentences were imposed for offenses committed by persons under 18 years of age. It was also recommended that the State party criminalize making accusations against children of witchcraft and ensure that authors of crimes on the basis of witchcraft were prosecuted; undertake appropriate sensitization and awareness-raising programs to address the belief in child witchcraft, for the general public as well as for religious leaders; regulate those religious institutions found to engage in such practices; and undertake a comprehensive research study on the causes and effects of the phenomenon.

Tunisia

Having considered the third periodic report of Tunisia, the Committee welcomed the creation of the post of Chief Child Protection Officer with the aim of overseeing and coordinating the activities of Child Protection Officers, assessing them, and participating in their development skills; the empowerment in 2006 of the High Committee on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms to deal with individual complaints and the extension of the list of bodies the High Committee was authorized to visit so as to include “social bodies responsible for persons with special needs”; and the adoption in May 2002 of the National Plan of Action for Children.

The Committee was concerned that 35 per cent of the cases referred to regional child protection delegates in 2008 involved neglect and vagrancy. In view of the magnitude of this phenomenon, the Committee expressed concern at the apparent lack of adequate protection measures in place and at the absence of information and specific data on the situation of children in street situations. The Committee remained concerned at the failure of the State party to monitor the quality and efficiency of the juvenile justice system and to guarantee full implementation of all provisions at all stages of the criminal justice process. It also noted with concern that the very broad definition of terrorist acts may have adverse consequences for the protection of children’s rights and may lead to abuse.

The Committee recommended that Tunisia undertake a systematic assessment of the situation of children in street situations in order to obtain an accurate picture of the root causes and magnitude; develop and implement a comprehensive policy to address the root causes; and in coordination with non-governmental organizations, provide children in street situations with the necessary protection, including a family environment, adequate health-care services, the possibility to attend school and other social services. The Committee also urged the State party to formulate and adopt a more precise definition of terrorist acts and ensure that persons under 18 years were not held accountable, detained or prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws and ensure that deprivation of liberty was always used as last resort and expand possibilities for alternative sentences such as probation and community service.

Final Observations and Recommendations on Reports Presented Under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict

Argentina

Following a review of the initial report of Argentina under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Committee welcomed the abolishment of compulsory military service and the regulation of the minimum age of 18 years of age for voluntary military service. The Committee also welcomed the ratification by the State party of a number of international human rights instruments including the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

The Committee noted with concern that the establishment and the recruitment for armed groups was not criminalized in the State party. The Committee also expressed concern that Argentina’s legislation did not contain specific provisions prohibiting arms export from the State party to countries in state of conflict, where children could be recruited or used in hostilities.

The Committee encouraged Argentina to ensure that violations regarding the recruitment and involvement of children in hostilities were explicitly criminalized in legislation and ensure that military codes, manuals and other military directives were in accordance with the provisions of the Optional Protocol. The Committee also urged the State party to introduce into its domestic legislation a specific prohibition with respect to the sale of arms to countries where children have been known to be, or may potentially be, recruited or used in hostilities.

Colombia

After a review of the initial report of Colombia under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Committee noted as positive the adoption of the Law on Childhood and Adolescence and its provision on the protection against the use and recruitment of children by armed groups. The Committee was also pleased to note the State party’s open invitation to all thematic Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and the numerous visits by such human rights mechanisms.

The Committee reiterated its concerns however over reports of extra-judicial killings by the armed forces of civilians, including children, who have been presented as guerrilla members killed in combat. The Committee abhorred the continued extensive recruitment and use of children by illegal armed groups and was gravely concerned that children who refused to be recruited were killed or forcibly displaced.

The Committee urged the State party to take prompt measures to ensure that extra-judicial executions of children by the armed forces were effectively halted and perpetrators suspended, prosecuted and sanctioned with appropriate penalties. The Committee recommended the State party take all feasible measures to eliminate the root causes and prevent recruitment and use of persons below the age of 18 years by armed groups. Particular attention should be paid to preventing recruitment and use of Afro Colombian and indigenous children.

Japan

Regarding the initial report of Japan under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Committee noted as positive Japan’s financial contributions to international organizations working in the field of children’s rights, particularly the rights of children involved in or affected by armed conflict. The Committee commended the State party’s ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and its accession to other international human rights instruments.

The Committee was concerned, however, that there were insufficient measures taken to identify children, including refugee and asylum-seeking children, who may have been recruited or used in hostilities abroad, as well as inadequate measures taken for their physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration.

The Committee recommended that Japan provide protection for asylum-seeking and refugee children who may have been recruited or used in hostilities abroad by carefully assessing the situation of these children and providing them with child-sensitive, multidisciplinary assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and their social reintegration and ensuring the availability of specially trained staff within the migration authorities to ensure that the best interests of the child are primary considerations in the decision-making process regarding the repatriation of a child.

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Following its examination of the initial report of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Committee noted with appreciation that under national legislation there were no possibilities to recruit any person younger than 18 years of age for military service, and that drafted persons were directed to military service after attaining 19 years of age. The Committee also welcomed the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and accession by the State party to several other international mechanisms.

The Committee regretted the absence of information on national legislation prohibiting the trade and export of small arms and lights weapons as well as military assistance to countries where children were or had been involved in armed conflict. The Committee was further concerned about recent reports of arms smuggling into neighbouring regions.

The Committee recommended that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia make explicit the prohibition of the trade and export of small arms and light weapons to countries where children were known to have been involved in armed conflict, criminalize illicit activities, including the manufacturing and trafficking of small arms and light weapons, and to ensure that records were maintained and firearms marked.

Serbia

Concluding the review of the initial report of Serbia under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Committee noted with appreciation the provision in the Law on Military, Labour and Material Duty, adopted in October 2009, which provided that persons under the age of 18 would not be sent to the compulsory military service. The Committee also welcomed the ratification by the State Party of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in 2002.

The Committee expressed concern that an adequate impartial complaints mechanism for children attending the Military Grammar School appeared to be lacking. The Committee was also concerned that relevant professional groups working with children did not receive sufficient training on the provisions of the Protocol.

The Committee recommended that the State party provide children attending the military school with adequate access to independent complaints mechanisms. The Committee urged Serbia to develop systematic education and training programmes on the provisions of the Optional Protocol for all relevant professional groups working with children, notably police officers, lawyers, prosecutors and judges, teachers, health professionals and social workers.

Final Observations and Recommendations on Reports Under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

Argentina

Regarding the initial report of Argentina on implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Committee noted with appreciation the adoption of laws on computer crimes and the law on the Sanction of Human Trafficking and Assistance to Victims of Trafficking.
The Committee expressed concern that despite the provisions of the Penal Code, which provided that testimonies by child victims be received in the presence of a psychologist and that they may be video or audio taped and limited in number, in practice, judges, defence lawyers or the prosecution insisted on a confrontation between the child victim and the perpetrator.

The Committee recommended that Argentina ensure that its provisions protecting child victims during testimony and trial were effectively implemented in the entirety of its territory. It should further increase trainings and dissemination to judges, prosecutors and lawyers on the Guidelines on Justice in Matters involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime.

Belgium

Following its examination of the initial report of Belgium under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Committee welcomed the National Plan of Action against Trafficking and Smuggling of Persons, the setting up of the centre for information on and analysis of trafficking and smuggling of persons, the specific training on areas covered by the Protocol provided to magistrates, the federal police and the State party’s armed forces, and the wide range of activities of international assistance and cooperation in the field of areas covered by the Optional Protocol.

The Committee expressed deep concern that foreign children victims of trafficking were not adequately protected in the State party. In particular, the Committee was concerned that children were granted residency only if they cooperated in the investigation; the Guardianship Act of May 2004 excluded European unaccompanied children from receiving the assistance of a guardian; hundreds of child trafficking victims had disappeared from reception centres between 1999 and 2005; and due to a shortage of places in the reception centres for children, unaccompanied and separated children victims of trafficking had been placed in centres together with adults.

The Committee urged the State party to provide protection to all children victims of offences and grant them residence permits regardless of their willingness or ability to cooperate in legal proceedings; guarantee that all asylum seeking unaccompanied and separated children were appointed a guardian during their asylum procedure regardless of their nationality; improve the protection of separated and unaccompanied children; enhance child rights knowledge and skills of professionals dealing with child victims; and create more residential structures to provide assistance to child victims of crimes under the Protocol.

Colombia

Having considered the initial report of Colombia under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Committee was pleased to note the adoption of numerous laws including the law on Childhood and Adolescence; the law on provisions to combat commercial sexual exploitation of children; and the law on reinforced measures against exploitation, pornography and sexual tourism with children.

The Committee expressed concerns about information indicating that the protection provided by the Attorney General’s Office for victims and witnesses at risk, in conjunction with the prosecution of members of networks responsible for child prostitution and trafficking, was inadequate. The Committee regretted that information from the State party on protection measures was lacking.

The Committee recommended that the State party take all necessary measures to ensure that child victims of any of the crimes under the Protocol not be stigmatised. Child victims should be protected at all stages of the criminal justice process in accordance with article 8 of the Protocol. The Committee also urged Argentina to use child-sensitive procedures to protect children from hardship during the justice process, including the use of special interview rooms designed for children, child-sensitive methods of questioning, and by reducing the number of interviews, statements and hearings.

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

After a review of the initial report of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Committee welcomed the various measures taken by the State party including the adoption of amendments to the law on child protection aimed at prohibiting the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography; explicitly criminalising all practices under the Optional Protocol; and information from the delegation that the unit of cybercrime within the Ministry of Interior had been active in uncovering child pornography.

The Committee noted that despite efforts to improve protections for child victims, protection was not systematically provided to victims of crimes other than trafficking and sexual exploitation, in particular to girls who had been sold for marriages or children exploited for forced labour. The Committee was also concerned that child victims of these practices may be stigmatized and socially marginalized.

The Committee urged the State party to ensure as a matter of priority the appropriate gender-sensitive assistance, including for their full social reintegration and physical and social recovery, to child victims of practices covered under the Optional Protocol, in particular to girl victims of sale for the purpose of marriage or children exploited for forced labour. The Committee recommended that the State party ensure that child victims of any of the offences under the Optional Protocol were as such neither criminalized nor penalized, and that all possible measures are taken to avoid their stigmatization and marginalization.

Japan

Following the review of the initial report of Japan under this Optional Protocol, the Committee was pleased to note the enactment of the Online Dating Site Regulation Law to combat child sexual exploitation through internet dating sites; the amendment of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act to ensure that victims of trafficking were not subject to deportation; the Action Plan for Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons; and the 2005 Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism, promoted by the United Nations Children’s Fund and signed by representatives of the travel and tourism industry.

While the Committee welcomed the efforts of the State party to combat child pornography and child prostitution, it was concerned that, in view of the prevalence of these offences, preventive measures remained inadequate. Furthermore, the Committee noted the lack of detailed information on measures to combat organised crime involving the offences set out in the Optional Protocol.

The Committee encouraged the State party to intensify its efforts to prevent the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, including through collaboration and bilateral agreements with neighbouring States, to consider adopting a plan of action to combat organised crime, taking into account technological advances which facilitate the commission of these crimes, particularly across international borders, and consider ratifying the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

Serbia

Having examined the initial report of Serbia under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Committee noted with appreciation the adoption of several legislative and other measures including the Law on Juvenile Offenders and Criminal Justice Protection of Juveniles, the amendments to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, the National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings for the period 2009-2011, and the National Strategy for Prevention and Protection of Children From Violence.

While noting some of the efforts undertaken to protect children form abuse and neglect, the Committee regretted that there were no specific programmes in place targeting particular groups of children, such as Roma children, refugee and internally displaced children, children in care institutions, children in street situations and the girl child aimed at preventing practices prohibited under the Optional Protocol. The Committee reiterated its concern that children in street situations were especially vulnerable to economic and sexual exploitation.

The Committee recommended that Serbia strengthen its systematic prevention activities, including birth registration, targeting the particular groups of children listed above, including girls, who were especially vulnerable or at risk, in order to protect them from the offences covered under the Optional Protocol. The State party was also encouraged to continue to make the provisions of the Optional Protocol widely known to the public, particularly to children and their families, through, integrating the provisions of the Optional Protocol in school curricula at all levels of the education system and appropriate material created specifically for children.

__________

For use of the information media; not an official record