Committee on Rights of the Child concludes fifty-fifth session

Committee on the Rights of the Child
ROUNDUP 1 October 2010

Issues Conclusions on Reports of Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi,
Guatemala, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sri Lanka and Sudan

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its three-week fifty-fifth session, adopting its report and issuing its concluding observations and recommendations on 18 reports from 10 countries, which it considered in parallel chambers over the course of the session. The Committee is meeting in parallel chambers during all three of its 2010 sessions in order to catch up on the backlog in its work.

In closing remarks, Yanghee Lee, the Committee Chairperson, noted that, during its fifty-fifth session, Committee members had considered eight periodic reports under the Convention – by Angola, Burundi, Guatemala, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Spain, Sri Lanka and Sudan– six initial reports under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Sudan – and four initial reports under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children – by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Nicaragua and Sierra Leone. This brought the total number of reports considered during this session to 18.

Ms. Lee said after 20 years of implementing the Convention time had come to demand serious accountability from both the public and the private sector. The international community must also come under the test of accountability. It was important to remember that unfulfilled promises victimized children and that this was unacceptable. The Committee had adopted the treaty-specific guidelines and its annexes, as well as the elements paper to contribute to the open-ended Working Group on a communications procedure to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Ms. Lee also said that the Committee had decided that children with parents in prison and children in migration situation would be themes for the general days of discussion to be held in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Lothar Friedrich Krappmann, the Committee Rapporteur, speaking on other activities of Committee Members during the fifty-fifth session, noted that during this session no day of general discussion had been held, which was regrettable as that was an occasion to meet with the international child rights community. Committee Members had discussed or would discuss the general comments in the pipeline on violence and on the best interests of the child. There had not been much time left for other activities, but Committee Members had nevertheless met with representatives of several organizations, including the International Labour Organization, and this weekend the Committee would prepare for its meetings with NGOs.

The Committee's next session will be held from 17 January to 4 February 2011 in Geneva, when it will consider 12 reports: the periodic reports of Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Denmark, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, New Zealand and Ukraine under the Convention; the initial reports of Belarus and Mexico under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and the initial reports of Belarus, Mexico and Ukraine under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Concluding Remarks

YANGHEE LEE, Committee Chairperson, in her concluding statement, said after 20 years of implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child the time had come to demand serious accountability from both the public and the private sectors. The international community must also come under the test of accountability. Recently, the international community had pledged over 40 billion dollars for women’s and children’s health and it was well-known what the international community had pledged for the Millennium Development Goals, disaster relief and other things. However, it was important to remember that unfulfilled promises victimized children and that this was unacceptable.

During its fifty-fifth session the Committee had convened in two parallel chambers and considered eight periodic reports under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The continued problem with documentation services was of grave concern; some documents had consistently failed to be translated and for some States written replies to the list of issues had not been translated into three of the UN working languages in a timely fashion.

Ms. Lee went on to say that the Committee had adopted the treaty-specific guidelines and its annexes, as well as the elements paper to contribute to the open-ended Working Group on a communications procedure to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These and other important documents would be made available on the website during next three days.

Ms. Lee said the Committee had decided to determine possible themes for general day of discussion for the next two years in advance. For next year this would be children with parents in prison and for 2012 it would be children in migration situations. Committee Members had also participated in the expert consultation on child-sensitive counselling and reporting mechanisms during the last two days. It would also participate in a workshop with members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to further develop a joint draft general comment on harmful traditional practices which would be the first joint general comment in the treaty body system.

LOTHAR FRIEDRICH KRAPPMAN, Committee Rapporteur, in concluding remarks, noted the appointment of the new Committee Secretary, Ms. Susan Mathews, and expressed appreciation for her dedicated work. The Committee had not forgotten Maja Andrijasevic-Boko, however and wished her well. Mr. Krappmann noted that no day of general discussion had been held during this session, which was regrettable as that was an occasion to meet with the international child rights community. This tradition would however be continued next year. It was also frustrating that the backlog had not really reduced despite the Committee’s efforts.

Mr. Krappmann said Committee Members had discussed or would discuss the two general comments that were in the pipeline, namely the ones pertaining to violence and the best interests of the child. There had not been much time left for other activities, but Committee Members had nevertheless met with representatives of several organizations, including the International Labour Organization, and this weekend the Committee would prepare for its meetings with NGOs.

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

Angola

Following consideration of the combined second through fourth periodic report of Angola, the Committee noted with appreciation the entry into force of the new Constitution in 2010 which created a legal framework for the rights of the child. The Committee also commended the creation of the National Council for Children and the adoption of Decree No.31/07 that established free birth and death registration for children up to 5 years and free identification cards for children up to the age of 11. The Committee welcomed Angola’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, as well as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Angola was also commended for including an article on non-discrimination that explicitly includes children in the new Constitution.

The Committee noted that the Ombudsman had a mandate to monitor implementation of the Convention, but was concerned about the lack of a clear mandate regarding the protection of children. Also, the Ombudsman was not in full conformity with the Paris Principles and had no presence outside the capital. Budget allocations for health, education and child protection had been increased, the Committee noted, but expressed concern that these were still low and that it remained unclear how much was spent on children. The HIV/AIDS situation was another source of concern; information about the statistical trends was contradictory, coverage of programmes for the prevention of mother to child transmission and anti-retroviral treatment of children was low, and technical staff trained in diagnosis and clinical management of persons with HIV/AIDS was lacking.

Among other things, the Committee recommended that Angola strengthen its efforts to ensure that the general principle of the best interests of the child was appropriately integrated in all legal provisions and projects that have an impact on children. The Committee also urged the State party to massively reduce the death rates of newborn and young children and mothers and take steps to address malnutrition in children under the age of five. Angola should further make use of the technical assistance tools developed by the United Nations Interagency Panel on Juvenile Justice, ensure that all child victims were provided with the protection required by the Convention, and combat child labour by the enforcement of an inspection system and strengthened Child Protection Networks, among other things.

Guatemala

Upon reviewing the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Guatemala, the Committee welcomed the adoption of legislative and other measures taken to implement the Convention. These included the 2007 Adoption Law, the National Council on Adoptions that was established in 2008, as well as the 2009 Law Against Sexual Violence, Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons and the creation of the Secretariat against Sexual Violence, Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons. The Committee noted with satisfaction that Guatemala had taken measures to promote and coordinate public policies relating to indigenous affairs such as the Public Policy for Coexistence and the Elimination of Racism and Racial Discrimination adopted in 2006. Guatemala’s collaboration with the High Commissioner’s Office through the establishment of an office in the country in January 2005 was also welcomed, as was the fact that Guatemala had accepted many visits from Special Procedure mandate holders of the Human Rights Council.

While noting Guatemala’s efforts to address the economic exploitation of children, the Committee remained concerned about the negative impact of the financial crisis on children. Families had sought new survival strategies such as the inclusion of children in hazardous work and/or migration and trafficking for labour exploitation purposes. The Committee was concerned at the high number of children in street situations, the insecurity and violence linked to youth gangs, as well as the extreme vulnerability of unaccompanied migrant children. The Committee regretted the insufficient number of specialized judges, the existence of only one juvenile appeals court, the high number of adolescents in centres of detention, and the absence of internal and external controls of the detention centres. Another source of concern related to the exclusion of Maya, Garifuna and Xinca children in the access to land and basic services such as civil registration, health services, and the lack of respect of their traditional territories.

It was recommended that Guatemala take steps to effectively implement the Protección Integral de la Niñez y Adolescencia Law and recent laws approved in accordance with the Policy and Plan of Action in favour of Children and Adolescents. In terms of coordination, the Committee urged Guatemala to explore the possibility of creating a higher level authority as a Secretariat for Children and Adolescents at the ministerial level in order to ensure the coordination of the implementation of the Convention and its two Protocols. The Committee also recommended that the State party take all the necessary measures to implement the National Plan of Action; that the allocation of financial and human resources to the National Commission on Children and Adolescents be increased; that the State adopt a comprehensive and progressive tax reform, expanding the tax base especially to social sectors and children; and develop a system of data collection and indicators consistent with the Convention.

Spain

Having considered the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Spain, the Committee welcomed the measures and actions taken by the different autonomous communities for the promotion and protection of children’s rights. It also recognized the progress that the National Strategic Plan for Children and Adolescents represented and valued its preparation process, which included broad participation of institutions and social organizations. The Committee also welcomed the upward trend in budgetary allocation for social sectors up to 2008, including policies and programmes addressing children and adolescent rights. It commended all efforts made to combat discrimination in its territory, particularly concerning children of Roma origin, children of migrant workers, unaccompanied foreign children and children with disabilities. The Committee welcomed in particular the approval of Strategic Plan for Citizenship and Integration 2007-2010, aimed at guaranteeing access to migrant students to mandatory education and facilitating integration in the educational system.

However, the Committee remained concerned at the obstacles encountered by children of foreigners in irregular situations in educational and health services. It also noted that laws and regulations applied in autonomous communities differed and were not always consistent in important areas such as the protection of children at risk or the treatment of unaccompanied foreign children. Another area of concern was the lack of a uniformed process to determine what constituted the best interests of the child and the persisting differences in autonomous communities regarding this principle, notably in cases of repatriation and adoption processes. The Committee expressed concern that many families still lacked appropriate assistance in their child-rearing responsibilities, particularly families in crisis situations due to poverty, absence of adequate housing or separation. A particular concern was the situation of children in families affected by the economic crisis and needing social measures, notably families of foreign origin and single-parent families.

The Committee recommended that Spain take all necessary measures to ensure that legislation and administrative regulations in all autonomous communities conformed fully to the Convention and the Optional Protocols. The next National Strategic Plan for Children and Adolescents should include the resources necessary to enhance the effective implementation of the plan and a more strategic selection of objectives and measures. The Committee also recommended that Spain minimize harsh sentences for children, even those who had committed serious criminal offences. Spain was also encouraged to fully implement juvenile justice standards, prevent irregular procedures in the expulsion of unaccompanied children, and to address the conditions of emergency centres in the Canary Islands and in the Spanish enclaves.

Burundi

Having examined the second periodic report of Burundi, the Committee welcomed a number of positive developments in the reporting period, including the adoption of the new Burundian Penal Code in 2009, which increased the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 13 to 15 years, and the ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography in 2007, and on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict in 2008. The ratification of the International Labour Organization Convention 182 on the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (2002) was also appreciated, as was the release of all children associated with the “Forces Nationales de Libération” through a formal disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.

The new Penal Code of 2009 had increased penalties for cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment against children, but the Committee was concerned that corporal punishment continued to be practiced and that domestic legislation did not explicitly prohibit corporal punishment in the home, schools, and alternative care settings. The Committee therefore urged Burundi to explicitly prohibit the use of corporal punishment and introduce public education campaigns, among other things. The Committee also remained concerned at the very large numbers of refugees or internally displaced persons, particularly the situation of unaccompanied displaced children, as well as child labour which was widely practiced in Burundi.

The Committee noted the significant efforts in the field of health, but remained concerned at low immunization rates, high levels of malnutrition and micro-nutrition deficiencies, as well as extremely poor health conditions among children. The Committee urged Burundi to take all appropriate measures to elaborate and adopt a comprehensive legal instrument gathering all provisions relating to children's rights and ensure adequate resources for full implementation of the Child Act, when approved. It was also recommended that Burundi ensure that customary laws and the Persons Family Code were in conformity with the Convention, that it adopt the draft law on succession and that it avoid any future massacres of albino children. The Committee strongly recommended that high priority be given to fully enable the new Ministry of National Solidarity, Human Rights and Gender to adopt a national policy for children.

Montenegro

After a review of the initial report of Montenegro, the Committee noted that several laws had been enacted, including the 2010 Law on Family Violence Protection, the 2010 Law on Anti-discrimination, and the New Family Law, adopted in 2007. Experts also welcomed the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol; the 2009 Council of Europe Convention on the avoidance of statelessness in relation to State succession; the European Convention on the Compensation of Victims of Violent Crimes; and the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

The Committee was concerned that the National Plan of Action for Children 2004-2010 did not cover all areas of the Convention and its Optional Protocols and that it did not allow for effective implementation of the principles and provisions of the Convention. The Committee also expressed concern at the lack of monitoring and financial resources allocated to the National Plan of Action. Other concerns related to the draft Juvenile Justice Law, which was still pending before Parliament, as well as children in conflict with the law, who were often treated under the same laws and procedures applicable to adults. The Committee was also concerned at the rising rate of children subjected to sexual exploitation and abuse and the negligible number of cases that reached the courts.

The Committee urged Montenegro to adopt a new National Plan of Action for Children and place it within a comprehensive national framework covering all areas of the Convention. Montenegro should also provide adequate human and financial resources for the plan’s implementation and develop efficient and effective mechanisms to implement and review all plans of action relevant to children. In terms of juvenile justice, the Committee recommended that Montenegro speedily adopt the Draft Law on Juvenile Justice and take the necessary measures to implement it. The State Party should also urgently set up a separate, adequate system of juvenile justice, including juvenile courts with specialized judges for children, and focus on strategies to prevent crimes in order to support children at risk at an early stage. Montenegro should further increase its awareness-raising campaigns on sexual exploitation and prostitution and implement appropriate policies and targeted programs for the prevention, recovery and social reintegration of child victims.

Sudan

Regarding the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Sudan, the Committee welcomed a number of positive developments in the reporting period, including the enactment of the 2010 Child Act, the Southern Sudan Child Act (2008), and the 2008 Southern Kordofan Female Genital Mutilation Act. The Committee also commended the ratification of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the promulgation of the Child Act (2010), the efforts to address and criminalise child sexual abuse through the 2010 Child Act, as well as the adoption of the National Human Rights Commission Act in April 2009.

The Committee however, expressed concern that the vast majority of the Sudanese population did not have ready access to potable water or adequate sanitation facilities and the living conditions of children in situations of extreme poverty massively impeded the holistic development of children’s capacities. The Committee also noted with concern that many female detainees in Southern Sudan and Khartoum had their children with them in poor conditions and that children of executed female prisoners reportedly remained in prison after the execution of their mothers. The prevalence of child abduction, particularly in the context of inter-tribal conflict in Southern Sudan, and forced recruitment of children into armed groups was also of concern to the Committee, which stressed that girls abducted by armed groups were frequently forced into sexual slavery.

The Committee recommended that Sudan amend the Asylum Act in accordance with international refugee law and include specific refugee status determination procedures and measures to address the specific needs of asylum seeking children. Sudan should particularly ensure that the principle of non-refoulement was respected in all decisions with respect to asylum seeking children, the Committee noted, adding that the State party should seek technical assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in this regard. Sudan was also encouraged to pass legislation at the federal level to expressly prohibit female genital mutilation and early marriage, ensure that such legislation was enforced in practice, and strengthen educational and awareness-raising programmes.

Nicaragua

Regarding the fourth periodic report of Nicaragua, the Committee welcomed a number of positive developments in the reporting period, including the adoption of legislative measures taken with a view to implementing the Convention, such as the Framework Law on the Right to Food (2009); the Special Law for the Promotion of Housing Construction and Access to Social Housing (2009); the Law of Equal Rights and Opportunities (2008); and the Law on Protection of Human Rights of People with Mental Illness (2008). The Committee was pleased to note that Nicaragua had become a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol; the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families; and the International Labour Organization Convention No. 169.

The Committee expressed concern that the National Council for the Comprehensive Care and Protection of Children and Adolescents had lost its authority and that it was now located within the Ministry of Family, Adolescence and Childhood which had affected overall coordination. It was further concerned that a new National System of Social Welfare (Sistema Nacional de Bienestar Social) had taken over the overall coordination of social policy and as a consequence the promotion and protection of children’s rights had lost specificity and transparency. The Committee was also concerned that the long-standing tradition of collaboration between the State party and an extensive network of national and international non-governmental organisations had recently become more limited due to, among other things, the weakening of National Council for the Comprehensive Care and Protection of Children and Adolescents.

The Committee recommended that Nicaragua consider strengthening the leadership and coordinating functions of the National Council for the Comprehensive Care and Protection of Children and Adolescents as set out in the Child Code. In this respect, Nicaragua should also streamline the roles and activities of the Sistema Nacional de Bienestar Social to ensure a comprehensive and well-articulated system of promotion and protection of children’s rights. The Committee also urged the State party to take all necessary measures to reinstate the climate of trust and cooperation with civil society and systematically involve communities and children’s organisations in the planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of policies, plans and programmes related to child rights.

Sri Lanka

Having considered the combined third and fourth periodic report of Sri Lanka, the Committee noted as positive that Sri Lanka had made a declaration upon ratification of the Protocol stating 18 years as the minimum age for voluntary recruitment to the armed forces. The Committee also welcomed that there was no conscription; that the minimum age of voluntary recruitment was 18 years without exception; and that the penal code had been amended (Amendment Act No. 16 of 1 January 2006) to penalize the engagement or recruitment of children for use in armed conflicts. The ratification of International Labour Organization Convention No. 182 on 1 March 2001 was a further positive development.

The Committee remained concerned that the National Human Rights Commission lacked independence and had not been provided with the necessary human, financial and technical resources to carry out its responsibilities effectively. The Committee further regretted that its recommendation to consider the establishment of a bureau for children’s rights within the Commission to enhance access for children had not been followed up. The Committee expressed serious concern that insufficient efforts had been made to investigate the death of hundreds of children during the last five months of the conflict, notably as a result of alleged shelling and aerial bombardments and deliberate deprivation of food, medical care and humanitarian assistance. The Committee also expressed serious concern that the whereabouts of hundreds of missing children had not been clarified and many remained unidentified.

The Committee urged Sri Lanka to ensure the independence of and provide the necessary resources to the National Human Rights Commission in conformity with the Paris Principles. It further urged Sri Lanka to consider establishing either a bureau for children’s rights within the Commission or an Ombudsman for Children. The Committee strongly advocated for prompt and independent investigations and due prosecution and sanctioning of those responsible for the killings of children and ensuring that further killings of children would not take place. To this aim, Sri Lanka should fully cooperate with the United Nations Secretary General’s Panel on Accountability in Sri Lanka. The Committee urged Sri Lanka to collect accurate data on areas covered by the Protocol and guarantee full access to the North and East of the country to organizations with expertise in family tracing and reunification programmes.

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

Sierra Leone

Following its examination of the initial report of Sierra Leone under the Optional Protocol, the Committee welcomed the adoption of the Republic of Sierra Leone Recruitment Policy in 2004, followed by the adoption of the Republic of Sierra Leone Recruitment Act in 2006, which prohibited both the voluntary and compulsory enlistment into the armed forces of all persons below 18 years. Further positive aspects included the promulgation of the Sierra Leone National Commission on Small Arms Act, approved by Parliament in 2010 and establishing a Commission to address the proliferation of small arms; the formulation of the Children’s Policy in 2006; and the signing of the Special Court Agreement Act in January 2002, establishing the Special Court for Sierra Leone with a mandate to prosecute persons who bore the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law.

The Committee was concerned, however, that relative to the estimated number of children who had participated in the armed conflict, only a few had benefitted from the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. The Committee also expressed concern that Sierra Leonean penal law did not provide for the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction in cases involving the offences set out in the Optional Protocol and that its legislation did not prohibit the sale of arms to countries where children were being recruited by armed forces or groups, where they were used in hostilities, or where they were at risk of falling victim to these practices.
The Committee recommended that Sierra Leone amend its penal law to provide for the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction for the offences set out in the Optional Protocol when they were committed by or against a person who was a citizen of or had other links with the State party. In terms of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, Sierra Leone should take effective measures to monitor the situation of former child combatants who were not included in the process to provide them with assistance to facilitate their full reintegration.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Following a review of the initial report of Bosnia and Herzegovina under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Committee noted with appreciation the adoption of the Law on Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina in January 2006, which abolished conscription and set the minimum age of recruitment for military service at 18 years. The Committee also welcomed ratification or accession to the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The Committee however remained concerned that the recruitment and use in armed conflict of persons under the age of 18 years was not explicitly prohibited nor criminalised in State and entity level legislation. Also, the Criminal Code did not specifically allow extraterritorial jurisdiction for all the cases referred to in the Optional Protocol. The Committee also pointed out that children continued to be affected by landmines and that children affected by the explosion of mines and other consequences of the armed conflict did not receive adequate assistance for their physical and psychological recovery.

The Committee encouraged Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure at both State and entity level that the recruitment and involvement of children in hostilities be explicitly criminalized in the criminal legislation. The State party was also encouraged to take steps to ensure that domestic legislation enabled establishing and exercising extraterritorial jurisdiction over war crimes of conscription and enlistment of children in hostilities. Bosnia and Herzegovina should also strengthen mine-awareness campaigns and demining activities and establish procedures for the adequate identification and referral for appropriate assistance of all children who had been involved in armed conflict.

Montenegro

After a review of the initial report of Montenegro under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Committee noted as positive that Montenegro had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, as well as the Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols.

While noting that there were no armed groups in Montenegro, the Committee was concerned that there was no explicit provision criminalizing the recruitment of children by armed groups that were distinct from the armed forces of the State. The Committee also expressed concern that Montenegrin legislation did not contain a specific prohibition of sale of arms to countries that were known to be using, or were potentially recruiting, children in hostilities. Also, participants of peacekeeping operations and relevant professional groups working with children may not receive systematic and sufficient training on the Protocol.

The Committee recommended that the State party prohibit the direct involvement in hostilities of persons under the age of 18 in all circumstances and amend the declaration made upon ratification of the Protocol. Montenegro should consider strengthening the competencies of the Council of Child Rights to have an institutional mechanism for effective coordination among ministries. It should also establish an identification mechanism for children potentially involved in armed conflict abroad and provide these children with appropriate assistance for their recovery and reintegration. Montenegro was also encouraged to establish extraterritorial jurisdiction over crimes under the Optional Protocol without the criterion of double criminality and to support multilateral and bilateral activities to address the rights of children involved in armed conflict.

Sudan

Following the examination of the initial report of Sudan, the Committee commended the State party on the promulgation of the Armed Forces Act (2007) which set the minimum age of recruitment into the armed forces at 18 years and provided for penalties for child recruitment and other war crimes. The Committee also welcomed the ratification of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction; the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I); and the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II). The Committee also welcomed the establishment of the National Mine Action Centre in 2005.

While noting that the Armed Forces Act set the minimum age of recruitment into the armed forces at 18 years, the Committee was concerned at reports of children being associated with the Sudan Armed Forces and with Government backed militias. The Committee also noted with concern that cooperation with the International Criminal Court was criminalised under Sudanese law despite the adoption of Security Council resolution 1593 (2005) calling on the State party to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court and its Prosecutor.

The Committee urged Sudan to take effective measures to end the recruitment of children into its armed forces and affiliated armed groups, including through the effective monitoring of the recruitment process at all levels of the military. Sudan should also ensure that all military codes, manuals, rules of engagement and other military directives were in accordance with the provisions of the Optional Protocol. The Committee further recommended that Sudan cooperate fully with and provide any necessary assistance to both the International Criminal Court and its Prosecutor.

Nicaragua

Having considered the initial report of Nicaragua under this Optional Protocol, the Committee welcomed the abolishment of compulsory military service by a constitutional amendment in 1995, and the regulation by the “Normativa de Organización para la Prestación del Servicio Militar Activo” of the minimum age of 18 years for voluntary military service. It further welcomed the establishment of a minimum age of 18 years even for exceptional conscription and noted as positive that Nicaragua had been declared a country free of mines in 2010.

While welcoming that the Penal Code and the Child Code prohibited the recruitment and direct participation of children in internal and international armed conflicts and hostilities, the Committee was concerned that the definition of the crime did not include indirect participation in hostilities and that this provision was not explicitly applicable to non-state armed groups. The Committee also regretted the lack of an explicit reference in legislation to the possibility of extradition of persons who committed offences addressed in the Optional Protocol.
The Committee urged Nicaragua to ensure that violations of the Optional Protocol regarding the recruitment of children by non-state armed groups and the indirect participation of children in hostilities be explicitly criminalized in the Penal Code. Nicaragua should also make sure that all military codes, manuals and other military directives were in accordance with this Protocol. The Committee also recommended that domestic legislation be enabled to establish and exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction over crimes under the Optional Protocol.
Sri Lanka
After examining the initial report of Sri Lanka, the Committee noted with appreciation the adoption of the Penal Code (Amendment) Act No. 16 of 2006 which inter alia made it a penal offence to engage and recruit a child for use in armed conflict and in child labour, child trafficking and child pornography. The Committee also appreciated the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act No. 34 of 2005 which provided protection orders to safeguard both children and women; the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children (Amendment); Act No.8 of 2003 which increased the minimum age of employment from 12 to 14 years and enhanced penalties for violations; and the 2010-2015 National Plan of Action for Children. The Committee further welcomed 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 on 22 September 2006.
The Committee was concerned that the enjoyment of child rights continued to be negatively affected by the application of emergency regulations as well as three different sources of law: national laws, Kandyan and Muslims laws. Another concern was that coordination remained inadequate due mainly to the low priority accorded to children’s issues, the inadequate funding of the coordinating ministry, and the multiplicity of other bodies with coordination functions. The Committee also expressed concern at the persistent discrimination against children belonging to the Veddha, Muslim and Tamil communities and discrimination against girls, rural children, refugee and internally displaced children, children of overseas workers, children in institutional care and children with disabilities.

The Committee reminded the State party that the conditions for declaring an emergency and enacting emergency laws were strictly defined and limited to exceptional circumstances. The Committee therefore urged Sri Lanka to review its existing emergency laws and urgently repeal those incompatible with its obligations. Sri Lanka was also encouraged to take the necessary measures to reinforce the coordination role of the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Affairs, rationalize the work of the various child rights bodies, and provide them with the necessary human and financial resources to carry out their role with efficiency. The Committee urged Sri Lanka to closely monitor the situation of children belonging to the above-mentioned disadvantaged groups who were exposed to discrimination. The State party should develop a comprehensive strategy containing specific and well-targeted actions aimed at eliminating all forms of discrimination against them.

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

Sierra Leone

After a review of the initial report of Sierra Leone under this Optional Protocol, the Committee welcomed several measures taken by the State party since its ratification of the Optional Protocol in May 2002. These included the enactment of the Child Rights Act in 2007, which among other things set the minimum age of marriage at 18 years, the adoption of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act in 2005, and the creation of a Trafficking in Persons Task Force in 2004. The Committee also welcomed Sierra Leone’s ratification of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

Nonetheless, the Committee noted with concern the exploitation of children in forced labour as domestic workers or in hazardous labour, particularly in the mining sector and in agriculture. The Committee was also concerned that penal law did not prohibit and penalize all offences covered under this Protocol and it failed to envisage the possibility of prosecuting legal persons involved in the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

The Committee recommended that Sierra Leone address the root causes of child economic exploitation, for example through the full implementation of its Poverty Reduction Strategy, and consider ratifying the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Sierra Leone should further revise and bring its penal law into full compliance with articles 2 and 3 of this Protocol and provide in its penal law for the prosecution of legal persons who commit offences under the Optional Protocol.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Regarding the initial report of Bosnia and Herzegovina on implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Committee welcomed the withdrawal of the State party’s reservation under article 9(1) of the Convention. The Committee also welcomed the adoption of the 2008-2012 National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Illegal Migration in Bosnia and Herzegovina; the adoption of the Action Plan for the Improvement of Protection System in the area of Child Pornography and other forms of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children through Internet and Communications Technologies in Bosnia and Herzegovina 2010-2012; and the adoption of the National Strategy to Combat Violence against Children 2007-2010.

The Committee was concerned that the process of merging the entity level Ombudsmen institutions into a single Ombudsman for Human Rights of Bosnia and Herzegovina was not yet complete and that the new structure retained separate entity-level institutions. The Committee was furthermore concerned that overlaps in the mandates of the Department for protection of the rights of the child within the Ombudsman for Human Rights of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Children’s Ombudsman of Republika Srpska may obstruct a unitary approach to monitoring the implementation of the Convention and its Optional Protocols.

The Committee recommended that Bosnia and Herzegovina intensify efforts to consolidate the Ombudsman for Human Rights of Bosnia and Herzegovina and ensure a unitary approach to protecting and promoting human rights, and in particular the Convention and its Optional Protocols. In addition, Bosnia and Herzegovina should adopt a national plan for the prevention of the sale of children, child pornography and child prostitution, ensure concerted and coordinated activities by law enforcement agencies, and ratify the Hague Convention No. 33 on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption.

Montenegro

Following its examination of the initial report of Montenegro under this Optional Protocol, the Committee noted the adoption of several legislative and other measures related to the implementation of the Optional protocol. These included the amended Criminal Procedure Code, adopted in August 2009, the 2008-2012 Strategy for the Improvement of the Status of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian population in Montenegro, and the 2008-2012 Strategy of the Social and Child Protection System in Montenegro. The Committee further noted with appreciation the State party’s ratification of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, on 2 May 2007, and the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime in March 2010.

The Committee was concerned that under criminal legislation a child is a person up to the age of 14 whereas a minor is a person of 14-18 years of age. Also, Montenegrin legislation did not explicitly criminalize the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography as defined in the Optional Protocol, and the Committee pointed out that the penal law did not envisage the possibility of prosecuting legal persons involved in such crimes. While noting the programmes in place targeting particular groups of children, including Roma and children in street situations, the Committee regretted that children remained vulnerable to the offences covered under the Optional Protocol. The Committee was also concerned at the absence of comprehensive services for the recovery and reintegration of child victims of sale, prostitution and pornography, at the lack of compensation possibilities for child victims, the lack of State run shelters, and that child victims of trafficking were placed in institutions of social protection where children without parental care were also placed.

The Committee recommended that Montenegro revise and bring its Criminal Code into full compliance with articles 2 and 3 of the Optional Protocol and ensure that all children under the age of 18 were fully protected by the Optional Protocol. Also, the State party’s penal law should provide for the prosecution of legal persons who committed offences under the Optional Protocol and that legislation must be fully and effectively implemented. The Committee further suggested that the State party undertake systematic prevention activities such as birth registration and targeting children who were especially vulnerable or at risk, particularly girls, in order to prevent children from becoming victims of offences covered by the Optional Protocol. In terms of recovery and reintegration of victims, further measures should be adapted to ensure that adequate services are available for all child victims, in accordance with the provisions of the Optional Protocol, and to provide access to shelters for victims of the offences covered by the Optional Protocol, ensuring that children were separated from adults.

Nicaragua

Regarding the initial report of Nicaragua under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Committee noted with appreciation that the Penal Code, which had entered into force in 2008, criminalized certain aspects of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Committee also appreciated the efforts of the State Party to put its Penal Code in conformity with the Optional Protocol and welcomed that article 19 of the Penal Procedure Code provided for universal jurisdiction.

While welcoming that the Penal Code criminalized the promotion of child sex tourism and the existence of the Regulations of the General Tourism Law, the Committee was concerned that child sex tourism remained a serious problem, with children being trafficked within the country for sex tourism. The Committee was also concerned that the Penal Code only partly incorporated the offences covered by the Optional Protocol; it did not criminalize the sale of children for the purpose of transfer of organs of the child for profit or engagement of the child in forced labour, and it did not explicitly cover prostitution of children 14 years of age or older, nor the possession of pornographic material.

The Committee recommended that Nicaragua take measures to prevent child sex tourism, strengthen cooperation with stakeholders to promote responsible tourism, and conduct systematic education and training on the provisions of the Optional Protocol for all professional groups working with and for children. The Committee also recommended that the State party revise and bring its penal law into full compliance with articles 2 and 3 of the Optional Protocol. It should also criminalize the sale of children by offering, delivering or accepting a child for sexual exploitation, transfer of organs or engagement of the child in forced labour, among other things.

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