New child rights legal instrument strengthens the right of children to be heard
NEW YORK, 14 January 2014 – UNICEF joined children’s rights advocates around the world today in applauding the news that children will soon be able to file complaints with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, securing their right to make their voices heard.
The Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communication Procedure expressly protects the right of children to redress violations of their rights. With ratification today by Costa Rica, the critical legal instrument will enter into force in April 2014.
Under the newly ratified protocol, individual children or groups of children will be able to submit complaints about specific violations of their rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict, and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child pornography and child prostitution.
The Third Optional Protocol will strengthen accountability, not only helping to identify gaps in judicial systems for children at the national level but also supporting independent human rights institutions for children, as called for in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which entered into force in 1989, is the most widely ratified human rights treaty, reflecting consensus among the governments of the world that there are certain minimum standards that every child should enjoy.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has asserted that: “For rights to have meaning, effective remedies must be available to redress violations.” The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communication Procedure is a critical mechanism to achieve that.
Under the new Protocol, only those children whose governments have ratified the Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure can submit their complaints to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. All state parties to the Convention of the Rights of the Child and its three optional protocols have an obligation to make these mechanisms accessible for all children, with special efforts directed at children most vulnerable to rights violations, especially excluded and marginalised children, such as children with disabilities, indigenous and minority children.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child may take steps to protect children who file complaints from reprisal, asking the State to take interim measures to protect the child or the group of children. In the event that the State concerned is found to have violated the Convention, the State will be obliged to implement recommendations that the Committee has made.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child is composed of 18 international independent human rights experts who monitor the implementation of the Convention and the Optional Protocols by States’ parties.
Countries that have ratified the Optional Protocol as of today are: Albania, Bolivia, Gabon, Germany, Montenegro, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, Slovakia and Costa Rica.
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