SNAICC is pleased to report that a new international mechanism has been created giving children the power to submit complaints about abuses of their rights – putting them on an equal footing with adults. The decisions follows five years of lobbying by a coalition of over 80 concerned NGOs, and will hopefully mark a new standard in the protection of children’s rights. Sara Austin, co-Chair of the NGO coalition leading the campaign, remarked,
“In the course of our work, we all come across numerous cases of violations of children’s rights that couldn’t be addressed before national courts…This is why we have campaigned so hard for the past five years: to get the voices of all these children heard and compel States to remedy those situations.”
On 20th December 2011 the UN General Assembly session voted to adopt a new Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The new Protocol sets out a communications procedure which will allow the Committee on the Rights of the Child to hear individual complaints from children (or their advocates) regarding potential abuses of their rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
As Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights states,
“Children will now be able to join the ranks of other rights-holders who are empowered to bring their complaints about human rights violations before an international body.”
How will it work?
The Protocol will apply to all of the international child rights instruments that a state has ratified – the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, and the Optional Protocol on children and armed conflict. Australia has ratified all three of these.
Once the Committee has received a complaint, they will examine it to understand if there has in fact been a violation of one or more rights. The Committee will follow child-safe procedures and safeguards to ensure that the complaint genuinely comes from the child. The child’s best interest must guide the Committee’s decisions, and they also must take into consideration the rights and views of the child.
During this review process, the Committee can ask the State to:
- Adopt interim measures to stop any further abuse of the child; and/or
- Ensure the child is protected from any reprisals for having made the complaint (including further violations of their rights, ill-treatment or intimidation).
If the Committee does find that there has been a violation of a right/s under the Convention, they will make specific recommendations to the State responsible to end the abuse. The Protocol also allows the Committee to follow-up with States after it has made recommendations, and to initiate inquiries into situations of serious and ongoing violations of the Convention.
IAn official signing ceremony will take place in Geneva on 28 February 2012, and states will then be able to sign and ratify the new Protocol. After ten states have ratified it the Protocol will enter into force as international law.
How can SNAICC be involved?
- Ensure that Australia signs and ratifies this important new Protocol as soon as it is open for signing;
- Raise awareness, especially amongst children, of the new complaints mechanism and how it can be used; and
- Where possible provide support to assist children to bring forward complaints to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and/or assist in sending information on grave or systematic violations of child rights to the Committee.
For more information, see: