Committee on the Rights of the Child Reviews 12 Countries’ Child Rights Records

State ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
State ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

State ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Credit: OHCHR

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is reviewing 12 States’ implementation of their obligations under the Convention of the Rights of the Child (the Convention) and its optional protocols on the sale of children and children in armed conflict at its 68th Session, being held in Geneva, Switzerland from January 12 to January 30, 2015. [OHCHR Press Release] Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Turkmenistan, Sweden, Mauritius, The Gambia, Tanzania, Jamaica, Uruguay, Colombia, Iraq and Switzerland are reporting on their efforts to promote and protect children’s rights to the CRC’s 18 independent experts, who will provide concluding observations and recommendations to further strengthen children’s rights after conducting question and answer sessions with the respective States. [OHCHR Press Release] These sessions are being webcast live. The agenda and programme of work, as well as country reports, lists of issues and information from civil society organizations organized alphabetically by country are all available online.

The sessions will include discussions of the possible use of child soldiers by Cambodian forces in a series of skirmishes along the Cambodian-Thai border; measures to combat discrimination against children of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic; the impact of Sweden’s Aliens Act—under which officials may remove children from families seeking entry into the country due to neglect or abuse, but then deport these same children together with their apparently unfit guardians if entry is denied to the guardians; the plight of children working in small-scale gold mining operations and violence against children with albinism in Tanzania, violence against children in Jamaica—where more than 8,700 cases of child abuse were documented just in 2012; as well as the situation of children in Iraq—where legislation is pending that would permit girls to marry at nine years of age, officials are accused of assisting in selling children for adoption, and ISIS continues to recruit child soldiers, enslave young girls for sex, and traffic children to fund military operations.

In addition to reviewing the State reports, the CRC is discussing the efforts of its focus group on strengthening the treaty body, as well as its upcoming projects and working methods. The CRC will focus on the Third Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure, which established a mechanism for the CRC to hear individual complaints against States parties as of April 2014. [OHCHR Press Release] The CRC will also officially adopt recommendations from its day of general discussion on “Digital media and children’s rights,” conducted at its 67th general session in 2014, and will consider possible themes for a general discussion in 2016. Beyond these discussions, the CRC will continue its work on three general comments addressing public spending to realize children’s rights; adolescents; and children in street situations. [OHCHR Press Release]


Cambodia

Cambodia’s reports address the country’s successes and challenges in complying with the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC) and the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC).

            Cambodia and the OPSC

Cambodia discussed its efforts to collect accurate data on child victims of cross-border trafficking, sexual abuse, exploitation and domestic violence, and children in legal conflicts, noting that they have yet to implement a system to precisely ascertain the number of children victims of such crimes; governmental agencies and legal rules designed to suppress trafficking and sexual exploitation, prohibit child sex tourism, regulate child care, implement child rights obligations and regulate inter-country adoptions; efforts to raise awareness of and provide training on the Optional Protocol for both the general public and State officials; a pilot model court program designed to better serve children and vulnerable victims or witnesses; work to prevent child exploitation and trafficking through legal, economic and social training, advocacy efforts and activities undertaken at the village level to educate the public; attempts to reduce child poverty through a pilot Village Fund Programme and vocational training; and work with other countries and international and regional organizations to combat trafficking and sexual exploitation of children. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 12, paragraph 1 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography: Reports of States parties due in 2004: Cambodia, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPSC/KHM/1, 5 October 2012.

            Cambodia and the OPAC

Cambodia described its general efforts to implement OPAC domestically, including through the creation of a special working group, and noted that since the demise of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime, the Royal Government of Cambodia has not recruited child soldiers. Cambodia further discussed legal rules governing military service, which restrict participation in the armed forces or hostilities to persons 18 years of age and older, methods of recruiting soldiers and verifying their age and awareness raising of the Optional Protocol, as well as work to punish those responsible for the recruitment of child soldiers and other war crimes during the Khmer Rouge era and to prevent the commission of similar crimes in the future; partnerships with other States and international organizations—including UNICEF and the Red Cross—to work with children who have been impacted by armed conflict in Cambodia. Cambodia further emphasized that “not a single Cambodian child” has been involved in the recent border conflicts with Thailand. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 8, paragraph 1, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict: Reports of States parties due in 2006: Cambodia, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/KHM/1, 25 October 2011.

Despite the government’s assurances, the CRC asked Cambodia to provide “detailed information concerning the actual or possible recruitment of children along the Cambodian-Thai border in northern Cambodia.” See Committee on the Rights of the Child, List of issues in relation to the report submitted by Cambodia under article 8, paragraph 1, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict: Cambodia, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/KHM/Q/1, 18 July 2014. The Non-Governmental Organization Coalition on the Rights of the Child (NGOCRC) noted that, in spite of Cambodia’s assurances that no child soldiers have been recruited since 1993, there are numerous, well-founded cases and sightings of child soldiers among Cambodia’s armed forces since that date. See NGO Coalition on the Rights of the Child, Alternative Report on the Implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts in the Kingdom of Cambodia, June 2013 at 15.

NGOCRC further commented that the State has not provided sufficient mental and physical health care for surviving child soldiers who had been recruited by the Khmer Rouge between the ages of 10 and 15, and that the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, established to try those responsible for the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, does not have a specific mandate to investigate and punish the crime of recruiting child soldiers. Id. at 1, 11. Additionally, NGOCRC noted the prevalence of mines and ERWs in the country, and the more than 7,200 child casualties between 1979 and September 2012 from these devices. As a result, NGOCRC highlighted the need for additional services and legislation for children who have been disabled as a result of mines or EWRs as part of the implementation of OPAC, even though OPAC does not expressly cover such victims. Id. at 11-13 & 18.

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic reported on its efforts to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child domestically. The State report addresses the implementation of the Conventional rights through the country’s new constitution and legislation; policies to support the fundamental rights of children; the juvenile court system and prosecution of children; the national strategy to secure children’s rights; work to combat poverty; available resources for implementation; the legal capacity to marry; the labor situation of children and efforts to eradicate child labor; military recruitment; criminal responsibility for children; and rules governing the deprivation of liberty; legal protections securing children’s right to non-discrimination; efforts to protect the best interests of children; the right to life, survival and development; the right of children to participate and be heard; the right to a name and nationality for all children and adolescents; birth registration and efforts to solve the problem of undocumented status in light of the fact that as many as 600,000 nationals lacked birth certificates as of 2004; the right to know one’s parents and be raised by one’s father and mother; freedom of expression; the right to privacy; the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; rules governing separation of children from their families or caregivers; protections for children when they leave the country; the incidence of physical punishment, abuse and neglect of children; rules governing adoption; right to maintenance from parents; efforts to realize Millennium Development Goals related to children’s health and welfare; provisions for children with disabilities; regulations for childcare services and facilities; health care services for children living with HIV/AIDS; efforts to combat malaria and tuberculosis; infant and mother mortality; vaccination; nutrition; availability of drinking water; adolescent health care, including sexual education, pregnancy rates and HIV/AIDS; educational initiatives—including those aimed at providing education to detained children and adolescents; programs for children from vulnerable families; protections for children in emergencies—including refugee children from the 2010 Haitian earthquake; programs to reintegrate and assist children subject to exploitation; efforts to combat drug abuse; efforts to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse; work to end trafficking of children; and programs for street children—emphasizing in this regard the need for a network of care services for such children and the lack of resources to implement the required network. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 44 of the Convention: Third to fifth period reports of States parties due in 2011: Dominican Republic, UN Doc. CRC/C/DOM/3-5, 11 July 2011.

The CRC asked the Dominican Republic to comment on measures to combat racial discrimination against children and adolescents of Haitian or African descent; and the impact of a recent Constitutional Court ruling on recognizing the citizenship of children born to foreign parents and a 2014 Naturalization Act creating a special regime for Dominicans registered on an irregular basis. See Committee on the Rights of the Child, List of issues in relation to the combined third to fifth periodic reports of the Dominican Republic, UN Doc. CRC/C/DOM/Q/3-5, 16 July 2014, paras. 5 and 6. Both the Constitutional Court ruling and the Naturalization Act were at issue in a recent Inter-American Court of Human Rights decision in the Case of Dominican and Haitian People Expelled v. The Dominican Republic. In that case, the Court found that both the Constitutional Court’s judgment and the 2014 legislation violated the rights to juridical personality, to a name, to a nationality, and to equal protection under the American Convention on Human Rights. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)] For more on the Inter-American Court’s ruling on these issues, see IJRC’s News Post.

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan submitted reports on its efforts to implement its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as both optional protocols thereto.

            Turkmenistan and the Convention

Turkmenistan discussed the child’s right to work; efforts to ensure non-discrimination; efforts to guarantee the principle of the best interests of the child—especially in cases of divorce, criminal proceedings involving juvenile offenders, education and health care initiatives; ongoing work to develop a National Plan of Action for Children; local and regional programs to enhance education and provide support for children; rights and duties of parents and caregivers; health care initiatives for children; the processes for registering children at birth as well as asylum seekers and refugees; provisions for children separated from their parents; right to travel and leave the country; legal rules governing children’s right to freedom of expression, thought, and to be heard and participate in proceedings affecting them; rights to freedom of association; protections for the right to privacy; implementation of the right to access information—including through an “extensive network of libraries” and youth television and radio programming; the responsibility and primary role of parents in education and development; prohibitions on corporeal punishment; efforts to protect children from abuse—including through a network of parent centers and group discussions designed to help parents listen to and communicate with their children; provisions for children from disadvantaged families; resources for children separated from their families or parents; adoption regulations; protections and services for refugee children; measures to protect the rights of children with disabilities; child health services; nutrition standards and services; vaccination rates; health education; contraception; services for pregnant women; infant care; efforts to improve rural health; HIV/AIDS prevention efforts; mental health initiatives; social security benefits including for childcare, maternity and temporary incapacity; efforts to ensure the right of children to be maintained by their parents; efforts to organize rest and recuperation for children; efforts to promote healthy lifestyles; protections against sexual offences; efforts to prevent child trafficking or exploitation; the right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and information on juvenile detention centers and juvenile justice. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 44 of the Convention: Combined second to fourth periodic reports of States parties due in 2010: Turkmenistan, UN Doc. CRC/C/TKM/2-4, 19 July 2011.

            Turkmenistan and OPSC

Turkmenistan described efforts to develop a national action plan for children; allocation of State resources for children; protections for children from abuse and all forms of exploitation in the workplace; the 2005 Guarantees of Young People’s Right to Work Act, which prevents children from performing work that would interfere with their studies or stunt their development; prohibitions against sexual offences; efforts to prevent abduction, trafficking and smuggling of children; prohibitions on the forced removal or sale of organs; adoption of the Human Trafficking Act; laws governing employment of those under 18; an education program to raise awareness of civil rights and protections for children; efforts to raise awareness about trafficking and prevention; a Human Rights Information Centre developed in connection with the European Union, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Development Programme in order to raise awareness of children’s rights; regulations governing interrogation and detention of juvenile suspects and youth involved in criminal proceedings and the creation of several youth centres to provide young people with a healthy way of life, social and creative activities and workshops. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 12, paragraph 1 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography: Initial reports of States parties due in 2007: Turkmenistan, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPSC/TKM/1, 26 January 2012.

            Turkmenistan and OPAC

Turkmenistan discussed regulations governing service with the armed forces; laws prohibiting the dissemination to children of any toys, films, recordings, or any printed materials that encourage or advocate war, cruelty, violence, or discrimination; prohibitions on paramilitary groups that advocate either war or racial, national or religious hatred; criminalization of mercenary activities, which may cover cases involving minors; efforts to improve the juvenile justice system; details concerning the regulation of child labor; and the work of the Interdepartmental Commission on Compliance with International Obligations Undertaken by Turkmenistan in the Field of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 8, paragraph1, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict: Initial reports of States parties due in 2007: Turkmenistan, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/TKM/1, 26 January 2012.

Sweden

Sweden reported on its successes and challenges in implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In this regard, Sweden discussed strategies for enhancing children’s right to be heard; the status of its reservations to the Convention; a new strategy to enhance the rights of the child; ongoing discussions on the creation of a national human rights institution in Sweden and potential expansion of the Ombudsman for Children’s authority so that it may hear individual complaints; coordination between State and local authorities in ensuring the rights of the child; the creation of a new independent agency to inspect schools; a new gender equality initiative in the field of health care; efforts to improve access to the health care system; reforms of Sweden’s secondary schools; new measures to increase children’s awareness of their rights; children’s rights enshrined in the Education Act and curricula; the initiation of a public authority government network for child and youth issues; handling of police investigations involving children; specialization projects to ensure greater expertise within the courts on children’s rights; training courses for lawyers on child rights; the use of child representatives in prisons and remand centers to strengthen the perspective of the child within the penal system; efforts to ensure understanding of children’s rights among Migration Board staff; efforts to disseminate CRC recommendations to government agencies; efforts to ensure non-discrimination of children and to raise awareness of children’s xenophobia and intolerance; how the principle of the best interests of the child manifests at school, in child custody cases, in social services and in asylum cases; efforts to respect the views of the child in enacting legislation, within the family, at school, within culture, in health care and medical contexts, in social service cases, in asylum cases and in judicial proceedings; access to appropriate information; combatting violence and abuse; paternal support; services for children who have been subject to violence; support for the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence against Children; support for families; efforts to initiate evidence-based practices in social services; enhanced protections for vulnerable children; efforts to combat homelessness; measures for children deprived of family environment; regulations governing intercountry adoptions; measures to promote family reunification for refugees; living standards among children; measures to protect the rights of children with disabilities; health care services for children; strategies for countering drug and alcohol abuse; work to combat female genital mutilation; provisions for children with parents in custody; the implementation of the right to schooling—including initiatives to combat bullying; a new minority policy to preserve the right to culture; a new coordinated strategy for the inclusion of Roma; State support for youth culture; sports; special protections for children seeking asylum; preventing the transfer of arms to countries that recruit child soldiers; national action plans and legislative efforts to combat trafficking and exploitation; efforts to combat sex tourism; reforms of child pornography laws; the ongoing need for improved methods of identifying children in pornographic images and movies distributed over the web; expansion of the right to education for children residing in Sweden without permits; and protections for youth deprived of liberty, crime victims and witnesses. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 44 of the Convention: Fifth periodic reports of States parties due in 2011: Sweden, UN Doc. CRC/C/SWE/5, 31 August 2012.

UNICEF Sweden cited concern with the impact of Sweden’s Aliens Act on children in their supplementary report to the CRC, noting that the legislation allows the expulsion or deportation of children who are placed in out-of-home-care as a result of negligence or domestic violence during the asylum process, in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. See UNICEF Sweden, Alternative report from UNICEF Sweden re. the Swedish Government’s 5th report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, 15 February 2014 at 3. Save the Children Sweden echoed UNICEF Sweden’s concerns in this regard, emphasizing that under the Aliens Act, a child can be placed in social care due to abuse or neglect, but if the child’s family is subsequently denied entry into Sweden, the child may be deported with the parents who were deemed unfit. See Save the Children Sweden, Supplementary Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in response to Sweden’s fifth periodic report at 5.   The CRC has asked Sweden to address whether it will repeal the provisions of the Aliens Act that countenance the expulsion or deportation of children who have been placed in alternative care as a result of neglect or domestic abuse. See Committee on the Rights of the Child, List of issues in relation to the fifth periodic report of Sweden, UN Doc. CRC/C/SWE/Q/5, 18 July 2014, para. 14.

Mauritius

Mauritius reported on its efforts to implement its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In its report, the State described work to implement the recommendations of the CRC from its last reporting cycle; general measures to implement the Convention through a variety of international and regional human rights instruments; amendments to Mauritius’ laws in order to comply with human rights obligations under the Convention; remedies available to victims of violations; provisions for victims of trafficking; the child mentoring scheme; the establishment of the Ombudsperson for Children; efforts to raise awareness of the Convention; cooperation among government agencies to implement the Convention; the definition of child in Mauritius; prohibitions on discrimination, including for persons living with HIV/AIDS; work to implement the principle of best interests of the child in national legislation; suicide rates; efforts to realize the right of children to be heard; efforts to prevent exploitation of children via mobile phones or the Internet—acknowledging, in this regard, the lack of specific legislation to protect children online; measures to prevent child pornography and exploitation; procedures for placing children in care outside the home; work to educate and rehabilitate parents whose children have been removed and to prevent child abuse; pending adoption procedures designed to align intercountry adoption laws with the requirements of the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption; special services for children with disabilities; vaccination efforts; improvements in pre-natal and neonatal health care; sexual education; measures to combat poverty; social security and childcare programs; efforts to improve education—including initiatives to begin using local languages in addition to English and French in the schools; rest, leisure and cultural activities provided for students; measures to end the worst forms of child labor; provisions for children in the justice system; provisions for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation; the establishment of a Truth and Justice Commission to inquire into slavery and indentured labor during the Colonial period; and efforts to end trafficking. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 44 of the Convention: Combined third to fifth periodic reports of States parties due in 2011: Mauritius, UN Doc. CRC/C/MUS/3-5, 5 September 2011.

The Gambia

The Gambia submitted its report pursuant to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In the report, The Gambia described efforts to ensure non-discrimination; to implement the principle of the best interests of the child in relevant legislation and policies; to ensure the right to life, survival and development; to respect the views of the child; to ensure the right to name and nationality; the preservation of identity; children’s rights to freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion and free association and peaceful assembly; attempts to protect children’s right to privacy; efforts to ensure access to appropriate information; difficulties encountered in ending corporeal punishment, female circumcision, early or forced marriage, domestic rights and equal inheritance rights due to pervasive cultural and religious practices; difficulties due to lack of funding to implement children’s rights legislation; initiatives to protect children in connection with legal proceedings; parental responsibilities; provisions for children separated from families; regulations governing adoption; abuse and neglect; efforts to reduce infant mortality; provisions for children with disabilities; health care; adolescent health—with a focus on pregnancy rates and STDs; education initiatives; early childhood development measures; literacy rates; rest and leisure activities available; provisions for refugee children; the juvenile justice system; child labor; drug abuse; efforts to combat sexual abuse and exploitation; trafficking—noting several recent incidents where children from neighboring countries had been trafficked to The Gambia and subsequently returned; recent efforts to protect children from trafficking; and the conditions of street children. See generally, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 44 of the Convention: Combined second and third periodic reports of States parties due in 2008: Gambia, UN Doc. CRC/C/GMB/2-3, 28 October 2011.

United Republic of Tanzania

In its third to fifth periodic report under the Convention, Tanzania discussed the general measures for implementation through efforts to harmonize existing legislation with the Convention; developing a national action plan; enacting a new Children’s Act; efforts to enhance data collection; awareness-raising on the Convention and its Optional Protocols; ending discrimination; measures to implement the principle of the best interests of the child in legislative, judicial and administrative spheres; ensuring the right to life, survival and development; efforts to guarantee respect for the views of the child and afford children opportunities to be heard; birth registrations; measures to guarantee freedom of expression and to access information; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; protections for privacy and the image; protections from harmful material; corporeal punishment—which is still allowed in Tanzania; parental guidance; parental responsibilities and State assistance to parents; childcare services; separation from parents; family reunification; provisions for children deprived of their family environment; periodic reviews of children placed in alternative care; regulations on adoption; measures to combat abuse and neglect; the right to survival and development; health care and legislation; the national HIV/AIDs policy; prenatal care; adolescent health; measures to prohibit and eradicate harmful traditional practices—including female genital mutilation; efforts to protect children from substance abuse; measures for children living in prison with their mothers and for children with incarcerated parents; educational initiatives; leisure, recreational and cultural activities; efforts to combat the killing of albino children and the creation of an albino boarding school to create a safer environment for children with albinism; measures to implement the Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict; protections for street children; provisions for children in situations of exploitation; drug abuse; provisions to end the sale, trafficking and abduction of children; efforts to combat child pornography; children in conflict with the law, victims and witnesses; the administration of juvenile justice system; the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and measures to promote the recovery and reintegration of child. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 44 of the Convention: Third to fifth periodic reports of States parties under article 44 of the Convention: The United Republic of Tanzania, UN Doc. CRC/C/TZA/3-5, 13 January 2012.

The CRC asked Tanzania to provide detailed information regarding measures to protect the right to life, survival and development for children with albinism. See Committee on the Rights of the Child, List of issues in relation to the combined third to fifth periodic reports of the United Republic of Tanzania, UN Doc. CRC/C/TZA/Q/3-5, 18 July 2014 at para. 8. Over the past three years in Tanzania, more than 70 albinos have been killed. Individuals with albinism are targeted for their body parts, which are believed to ensure good fortune. [BBC] A 2013 report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights specifically addressed discrimination and violence against those with albinism in East Africa, and especially Tanzania, noting the “high number of incidents . . . and the limited number of court cases and slow proceedings in this regard” in the country. See Human Rights Council, Persons with albinism: Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Doc. A/HRC/24/57, 12 Sept. 2013 at para. 50. The ongoing need to address such violence was highlighted by the kidnapping this past December of a four-year-old albino girl from her home in the north of Tanzania by a group of armed men. Police in Tanzania arrested 15 suspects in connection with her disappearance, including her father and uncle. [AllAfrica] Most albino murders in Tanzania are never prosecuted. [National Geographic].

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called attention to hazardous child labor in Tanzania, noting that children as young as eight work in small-scale gold mining operations despite legislation that prohibits mining work for anyone under 18. The children interviewed by HRW reported shifts lasting up to 24 hours, where they are required to carry up to 60 kilograms of gold ore, to pulverize the ore with dangerous stones or tools, and to work in deep, unstable pits that sometimes collapse and may fill with lethal gasses. See Letter from Human Rights Watch to Committee on the Rights of the Child 1-2 (March 3, 2014). The CRC asked Tanzania to address “measures taken to urgently remove children who work in [such] small-scale gold and gem mining” operations. See Committee on the Rights of the Child, List of issues in relation to the combined third to fifth periodic reports of the United Republic of Tanzania, UN Doc. CRC/C/TZA/Q/3-5, 18 July 2014 at para. 18.

Jamaica

Jamaica submitted its third and fourth periodic reports under the Convention, discussing its general measures to implement its treaty obligations—including through legislation, coordination among government agencies, a national action plan, the collection of data on child welfare, provision of resources for children and dissemination of information regarding the Convention; policies to end discrimination; measures to realize the principle of the best interests of the child; provisions to allow children to share their views and be heard; birth registration; measures to counter violence, abuse, neglect and corporal punishment—emphasizing in this regard the recent increase in murders of children and highlighting the government’s attempts to address this violence through legislation requiring anyone to report knowledge or suspicion of child abuse or exploitation; access to information; the family environment and resources for children in alternative care; resources for children with disabilities; health care measures; adolescent health; resources for those living with HIV/AIDS; social security provisions and standard of living; challenges in education; strategies to support children’s education; inclusive education initiatives; special protections to prevent child labor, sexual exploitation and trafficking; and juvenile justice. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 44 of the Convention: Third and fourth periodic reports of States parties due in 2008: Jamaica, UN Doc. CRC/C/JAM/3-4, 26 August 2011.

Civil society organizations noted, “protection of children from violence, abuse and exploitation in all its forms is one of the biggest challenges facing the nation” with a “devastating impact on children.” See Jamaicans for Justice, Non-Governmental Organisations Report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child at 7-8. In 2012 alone, more than 8,700 cases of child abuse were reported. Id. Data from UNICEF Jamaica reveals that children and adolescents were treated for intentional violence injuries on a daily basis between January and October 2010, including over 19,000 incidents of sexual assault, stab wounds, gunshots and blunt force injury. Children account for 42 percent of all attempted suicides and 68 per cent of all sexual assaults. [UNICEF Jamaica: Child Protection] In June 2013, UNICEF condemned the “unrelenting violence” against Jamaica’s youth after 16 children were murdered between January and April 2013. [Jamaica Observer] The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, noted Jamaica’s culture of violence and emphasized that cultural and policy shifts must be implemented to create a safe environment for children. [Jamaica Gleaner]

Uruguay

Uruguay submitted three separate reports under the Convention and its two Optional Protocols.

            Uruguay and the Convention

Uruguay addressed general measures undertaken to implement the Convention; measures to protect the civil rights and freedoms of children—including advances in ending corporal punishment; family environment and alternative care; adoption regulations; basic health and welfare of children; education, leisure and cultural initiatives; special protection measures for refugees, asylum seekers and migrant children; economic exploitation and child labor; the steady decline in the number of children living on the street; sexual exploitation; administration of juvenile justice; key policy challenges for families with children and adolescents; efforts to improve maternal and early childhood health; mental health initiatives; programs for children with disabilities; measures to end child abuse and ill-treatment; programs for children in conflict with the law; and housing. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 44 of the Convention: Third to fifth periodic reports of States parties due in 2011: Uruguay, UN Doc. CRC/C/URY/3-5, 24 October 2012.

            Uruguay and OPSC

In its report under the OPSC, Uruguay laid out the characteristics of the commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents in Uruguay; the legal and institutional framework of protections for children from such abuses; the national plan for the elimination of commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents; the budget allocated to implementing the OPSC; the situation of children and adolescents in Uruguay; data on sexual exploitation; preventative measures—including training of public officials, awareness campaigns, educational measures, institutional measures, special measures in border regions and the tourism sector; victim assistance programs; legal prohibitions of offences established in the OPSC; seizure and confiscation measures; victim protections; extradition regulations; international judicial cooperation and efforts to coordinate with other States. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 12, paragraph 1, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography: Initial reports of States parties due in 2005: Uruguay, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPSC/URY/1, 24 October 2012.

            Uruguay and the OPAC

In reporting under the OPAC, Uruguay described laws restricting those under 18 from military service; regulation of military schools; national, regional and international instruments protecting the rights enshrined in the OPAC and military education. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 8, paragraph 1, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict: Initial reports of States parties due in 2004: Uruguay, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/URY/1, 24 October 2012.

Colombia

In its fourth and fifth periodic reports under the Convention, Colombia addressed measures adopted to align domestic legislation with Conventional provisions; national strategies and action plans to safeguard the rights of children; the institutional framework for implementing the Convention; budget allocations for children’s rights; measures adopted to disseminate the rights of children; cooperation with civil society and children’s groups; recent measures to combat gender-based discrimination, discrimination against children with disabilities and discrimination against children of ethnic groups; efforts to realize the principle of the best interests of the child; the right to life, measures to respect the views of children and realize their right to be heard; birth registration, name and nationality; the preservation of identity for adopted children; protections of freedom of expression, the right to information, association and peaceful assembly, and privacy and the image; the right to be free from torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment through programs to prevent child abuse and end female genital mutilation; measures to reintegrate victims of sexual violence, armed conflict and trafficking; measures to promote safe family environments and paternal guidance; parental responsibilities and assistance to parents in caring for children; separation of children from their parents; alternative care for children out of the home setting; protections for children in conflict with the law; street children; family reunification procedures; measures to combat abduction; provisions for children separated from their parents due to parents’ incarceration or public order disturbances; recovery of maintenance for children; adoption regulations; the illicit transfer and non-return of children; social reintegration for victims of abuse and neglect; health care; child morbidity; vaccinations; maternal mortality; neonatal care; efforts to address the most prevalent health problems facing youth; reproductive health rights; measures to eliminate harmful traditional practices, including forced and early marriage; measures to prevent substance abuse; the right to education; cultural rights for indigenous and minority children; human rights and civic education initiatives; rest, play, leisure and recreational, cultural and artistic activities; special protections for internally displaced children and returnee children; the situation of children in armed conflict; and children deprived of their liberty, including in any form of detention or custodial care. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 44 of the Convention: Fourth and fifth periodic reports of States parties due in 2011: Colombia, UN Doc. CRC/C/COL/4-5, 27 December 2011.

Switzerland

Switzerland provided a consolidated report on its efforts to implement the Convention and the OPAC, and a separate report on its measures to comply with the requirements of the OPSC.

            Switzerland’s Consolidated Report on the Convention and OPAC

Switzerland discussed the status of its reservations to various provisions of the Convention; measures adopted to implement Conventional rights; international cooperation, including through humanitarian activities; existing mechanisms to implement the Convention and coordinate policy relating to children; measures to educate the public on the Convention; measures taken to end discrimination; efforts to implement the principle of the best interests of the child; protections for the right to life, survival and development; measures to give effect to the right of the child to be heard through participation in judicial proceedings and direct participation of children in schools and in public life; registration and naming regulations; the right to know one’s parents; preservation of identity; case law on the right to freedom of expression, thought, conscience, and religion; efforts to protect religious minorities; availability of appropriate information through books and electronic media and radio, television and print media; measures to protect children in the media and from violence in the media; the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; parental responsibilities and State aid to parents; provisions for children separated from their parents; family reunification; recovery of child maintenance from parents; provisions for children deprived of a family environment; regulations for adoptions; measures to handle illicit transfer and non-return of children; measures to combat maltreatment and neglect—including studies and legislative protections; provisions for children with disabilities; health and health services for children—including legislation reducing health care premiums to increase availability; promotion of health; mortality rates; nutrition; sexual health; action to combat AIDS; prohibitions on female genital mutilation; social security benefits for children—including childcare and social insurance benefits; the standard of living; the right to education and distribution of competences in this regard between the Confederation and cantons; gender equality; education for foreign children; rest, leisure and cultural activities; special protections for children in emergencies, refugee children and child victims in armed conflicts; prevention of juvenile crime; juvenile criminal proceedings; provisions for children deprived of their liberty; sentencing of juveniles; efforts to combat the exploitation of children, drug use, sexual violence and trafficking; and provisions for minority children. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 44 of the Convention: Second, third and fourth periodic reports of States parties due in 2007: Switzerland, UN Doc. CRC/C/CHE/2-4, 19 July 2012.

            Switzerland’s OPSC Report

In its report under the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Switzerland addressed measures to implement the OPSC domestically; rules governing criminal liability for the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; the criminal justice process— including rules for establishing jurisdiction over OPSC offenses, extradition and mutual legal assistance, the seizure and confiscation of property and closure of premises, and criminal prosecutions; measures to protect victims during criminal proceedings; compensation for victims; training programs for relevant officials; preventative measures taken at federal and local levels; measures to combat sex tourism; preventative measures and initiatives undertaken by civil society organizations; and measures for international assistance and cooperation. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 12, paragraph 1, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography: Initial reports of States parties due in 2008: Switzerland, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPSC/CHE/1, 16 December 2011.

Iraq

Iraq filed three separate reports under the Convention, the OPSC and the OPAC.

            Iraq and the Convention

Iraq described efforts to implement recommendations from the CRC following its last reporting cycle; status of reservations to the Convention; legislation and national practice in applying the Convention in Iraqi law; national strategies, plans and policies in support of children; the poverty reduction strategy; international aid; independent national human rights organizations; the role of nascent civil society organizations and associations, which are as yet “have not been free from political interference” due to budgetary restrictions; attempts to spread cultural awareness of Conventional rights; the age of criminal responsibility; age of early marriage and legal provisions to prevent forced marriage; the age of employment; provisions to prevent those under 18 from voluntary enlistment in the armed forces; efforts to realize the principle of the best interests of the child in domestic policy and legislation; protections for the right to life, survival and development; mechanisms for children to share their views; provisions governing name and nationality and retention of identity; draft legislation to preserve the freedom of expression; protections for privacy; efforts to ensure access to appropriate information; the right to be free from torture or other forms of cruel or degrading treatment; rehabilitation and reintegration for child victims; the family environment and parental guidance; parental responsibilities; separation from parents; the family reintegration program; family reunification; provisions for children deprived of a family environment; regulations governing adoption; health services; efforts to combat diseases and promote physical and mental health; efforts to prohibit female circumcision—particularly in the Kurdistan Region; statistics on early and forced marriage—acknowledging that early marriage of girl children “is a violation of human rights, given its adverse effect on a girl’s development, early pregnancy, social isolation and associated low educational level”; drug abuse prevention; adolescent health; the rights of disabled children; attempts to ensure the right to education, vocational training and guidance; educational goals; teaching human and civic rights; rest, play, recreation, leisure and cultural and artistic activities; early childhood rights, including a new cognitive development initiative; education for the disabled; special protections for child asylum seekers; the impact of hostilities on displaced children and efforts to provide for such children—including information on the housing, food and health security and education for 1.7 million internally displaced persons; information on children in the ongoing armed conflict, including the use of child soldiers by armed groups in the country; and efforts to protect children from sexual assault. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 44 of the Convention: Combined second to fourth periodic reports of States parties due in 2011: Iraq, UN Doc. CRC/C/IRQ/2-4, 2 December 2013.

The CRC asked Iraq to comment on the increase in honor killings, and in particular, whether Iraq will repeal provisions in its criminal laws which make “honourable motives” mitigating factor in the murder of girls. See Committee on the Rights of the Child, List of issues in relation to the combined second to fourth periodic reports of Iraq, UN Doc. CRC/C/IRQ/Q/2-4, 18 July 2014, para. 5. In a joint submission to the CRC, several human rights groups noted that the Iraqi Penal Code persists in permitting honor considerations to mitigate sentences, emphasizing that these provisions legitimate “gross acts of violence” and have led to a recent “exacerbation of honor crimes.” See MADRE, Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq & The International Women’s Human Right Clinic, City University of New York School of Law, Responses to the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s List of Issues in Relation to: The Combined Second to Fourth Periodic Reports of Iraq at 1. The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has similarly called on Iraq to repeal the sections of the Penal Code recognizing honor considerations as mitigating factors in crimes as “a matter of urgency.” UNAMI emphasized that courts have proved “unwilling to take action in honour crimes,” sighting the example of a young man who admitted shooting his sister and hitting her with a sword and metal bar for honor reasons. He was sentenced to a suspended sentence of one year in prison. UNAMI, Report on Human Rights in Iraq: July – December 2013 (June 2014) at 15. UNAMI also noted that the Criminal Code includes special provisions for individuals who kill new-borns “for honour reasons.” Id. at iv.

The CRC also requested information on a pending Iraqi bill that would legalize marriage for girls as young as nine. See Committee on the Rights of the Child, List of issues in relation to the combined second to fourth periodic reports of Iraq, UN Doc. CRC/C/IRQ/Q/2-4, 18 July 2014, para. 6. The draft law also legalizes marital rape and makes men strict guardians over their wives. [The Guardian; Time] The bill must still pass parliament, but has sparked outrage among rights activists attempting to counter deeply held patriarchal attitudes. [NPR]

            Iraq and the OPSC

In its report under the OPSC, Iraq addressed its efforts at compliance with and implementation of the general principles enshrined in the OPSC; the legal status of the OPSC domestically; the status of its reservations to the OPSC; the factors and difficulties to fulfilling OPSC obligations; relevant legislation; data on the sale of children, child pornography and prostitution; the status of the offences defined in the OPSC; statistics on child labor, early marriage; marriages outside the court—an increasing phenomenon and “serious and complex issue in Iraq” despite legal prohibitions; the situation of displaced, orphaned and street children; juvenile delinquency under the auspices of terrorism; child prostitution, which it alleges is “not prevalent in Iraq”; child pornography, which Iraq likewise asserts is not prevalent; protections for the most vulnerable children; awareness campaigns; legal prohibitions on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; legal obstacles; criminal liability; adoption regulations; legal jurisdiction; extradition; seizure and confiscation; measures taken to protect victims; investigations into offences; implementation of the right to a fair and impartial trial; family integration; recovery of identity; remedies available to children and relatives for violations; efforts to promote cooperation and coordination internationally; and efforts to address the root causes of offences under the OPSC. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 12, paragraph 1 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography: Reports of States parties due in 2010: Iraq, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPSC/IRQ/1, 23 July 2013.

The CRC sought information from Iraq on measures to prevent government officials from facilitating the trafficking in children by providing forged documents and returning escaped victims to their traffickers for payment. See Committee on the Rights of the Child, List of issues in relation to the report submitted by Iraq under article 12, paragraph 1, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPSC/IRQ/Q/1, 18 July 2014 at para. 9. The CRC’s question comes amid reports of more than 150 children a year sold from Iraq by organized gangs that buy infants cheaply for sale abroad. One child dealer explained that child trafficking in Iraq is relatively easy since underpaid government workers are willing to help falsify documents. Colonel Firaz Abdallah of the Iraqi police emphasized that government corruption makes it difficult to prevent trafficking since children arrive at the airport with seemingly official and correct documentation. [The Guardian] UNAMI recently reported that Iraqi authorities are not adequately protecting young women and girls from being trafficked for sexual exploitation, allegedly by individuals with ties to local law enforcement. UNAMI, Report on Human Rights in Iraq: July – December 2013 (June 2014) at 16.

            Iraq and the OPAC

In its first report under OPAC, Iraq describes the legal status of the OPAC under domestic law; methods of implementing OPAC throughout the country; national efforts to effectuate the Protocol’s provisions; dissemination efforts; the mandate of the Independent High Commission for Human Rights; efforts to prevent the conscription or voluntary recruitment of child soldiers; education opportunities provided by the armed forces; the incorporation of armed militias into the regular forces and other successes and challenges in dealing with armed groups in Iraq; responses to the recruitment of child soldiers by armed and terrorist groups; efforts to include peace education in school curricula; prohibitions on the use of child soldiers; attempts to pass a comprehensive Children’s Bill; provisions for displaced children; the Martyrs Foundation Act, designed to address the needs of the families of martyrs who died opposing the former Iraqi regime; the Political Prisoners Foundation, which provides care to political prisoners detained under the dictatorship; the Dismissed Politicians Act, which compensates dismissed politicians for damages incurred after their dismissal from office for political motives under the old guard regime; the Compensation for Persons Affected by Military Operations and Errors and Terrorist Operations Act and several other acts designed to provide for victims of the former regime. See generally, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 8, paragraph 1, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict: Initial reports of States parties due in 2010: Iraq, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/IRQ/1, 9 May 2012.

Iraq’s report comes in the midst of growing concerns about the plight of children from the militant group ISIS’ operations in the country. In a recent report, UNAMI asserted that children remain victims of armed violence and terrorism, noting that insurgent and terrorist groups have been targeting children, with 12 registered attacks on schools between July and December 2013. UNAMI also described an uptick in child abductions, possibly in order to finance terrorist activities. UNAMI, Report on Human Rights in Iraq: July – December 2013 (June 2014) at 18. ISIS raises millions of dollars to fund its operations by selling women and children as sex slaves. [Reuters] After ISIS captured and turned more than 2,500 Yazidi women into sex slaves, the group published rules on the treatment of female and child slaves. The rules permit sexual relations, beatings and trade in non-Muslim slaves—including young girls. [Newsweek] ISIS also recruits child soldiers in Iraq. [MSNBC] The group runs training schools to groom youth to participate in ISIS operations. [Daily Mail] A recently released ISIS video shows a child executing two ISIS captives. [NBC] Another image shows a young child firing rockets. [Daily Mail] While acknowledging the difficulties facing the Iraqi government in countering these armed insurgent and terrorist groups, UNAMI called on Iraq to create a formal mechanism for child protection and information-sharing with the UN to better monitor the situation of children on the ground. UNAMI, Report on Human Rights in Iraq: July – December 2013 (June 2014) at 18.

For more on the rights of children, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub and our children’s rights thematic research guide.