MANILA, Philippines—Children whose human rights have been violated can now seek international justice through the United Nations.
On Wednesday, the UN General Assembly, enacted an instrument known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure (OP3 CRC) that was adopted in December 2011.
The convention, however, will become active only in three months from enactment, after Costa Rica ratified. Other countries like Albania, Bolivia, Gabon, Germany, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Thailand has already ratified it.
The OP3 CRC is an international treaty that allows for complaints to be filed against a State before the Committee on the Rights of the Child alleging a violation of any of the rights in the CRC (and the Optional Protocols on armed conflict, and sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography if the State is a party). Almost all UN member-states have ratified it except Somalia, North Sudan and the United States.
There are three types of complaint:
Individual complaints—individuals or groups of individuals allege a violation.
Inquiries—The Committee can initiate an inquiry into alleged large scale abuse. This doesn’t require a specific child or group of children to bring an alleged violation and takes a less judicial model. The Committee can initiate these inquiries itself for large scale abuses; and
Inter-State communications—one State can lodge a complaint against another. This doesn’t need to identify individual victims and not limited to serious or widespread abuses.
For any State that ratifies OP3 after the Protocol enters into force, there will be a three- month waiting period before the Committee can receive complaints regarding the State. Complaints can only be filed in relation to violations that took place after the complaints mechanism enters into force in the specific State.
The Committee will only hear complaints if “domestic remedies have been exhausted” —so complainants will have to first challenge the violation in every possible way through the domestic legal system.
If the Committee finds for the victim(s), the Committee will be able to recommend that the government in question offer the child victim(s) remedies such as rehabilitation, reparation, financial compensation or guarantees of non-repetition.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) here hailed the instrument as children all over the world are prone to human rights abuses, such as being sentenced to death, trafficked into hazardous child labor, and subjected to violence and sexual abuse.
“They are routinely neglected by decision makers, and their views and opinions ignored,” CHR Chair Loretta Ann Rosales said.
She said that under this new treaty, the UN would be better equipped to address future violations of children’s rights, and more pressure will be put on countries to ensure children’s rights are respected.
Until today, and despite its near universal ratification, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was the only international human rights treaty that had no mechanism for victims to seek justice internationally when they could not get redress for violations of their rights nationally.
The CHR urged states to show their commitment to promoting and protecting children’s rights by ratifying the treaty without delay so more children can access international justice. States are not bound by the treaty until they ratify it.
“It is about time that children’s rights can be brought to UN,” the CHR said.
Cases brought under this new communications procedure will be heard by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN body of 18 independent experts responsible for ensuring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
From April 14, 2014, victims of all new or ongoing violations in states who have ratified the treaty can start bringing cases to the Committee if no solution is found nationally. The treaty does not cover past violations.
A leaflet on OP3 CRC has been developed by Ratify OP3 CRC that contains information and answers key questions on OP3 CRC. The leaflet is available in Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Russian.
Also, a child-friendly version of the OP3 CRC leaflet has also been produced by Ratify OP3 CRC.
The Rules of Procedure for OP3 CRC, adopted by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, provides detailed provisions on the concrete functioning of the complaint procedure.