UN ready with new law to protect children's rights

Ban Ki Moon

Ban Ki-Moon, UN secretary-general

A new legal instrument that will allow children or their representatives to file complaints with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will become effective in April, following its final ratification, the UN said on Tuesday.

According to the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Costa Rica becomes the 10th country to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure.

“The Optional Protocol gives children who have exhausted all legal avenues in their own countries the possibility of applying to the committee.

“It means children are able to fully exercise their rights and are empowered to have access to international human rights bodies in the same way adults are under several other human rights treaties.’’

The Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Kirsten Sandberg, said : “Child-sensitive procedures and safeguards will be put into place to ensure that any child filing a complaint is protected and to prevent any reprisals.

“The measures will also be in place to ensure that the child is not being manipulated or used to make the complaint.’’

She called the optional protocol “a major step forward”, but stressed that governments had the primary responsibility to address child rights violations.

“We urge states to develop their own systems to ensure that children’s rights are respected and protected and that their voices can be heard,’’ Sandberg said.

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On behalf of the UN human rights office, she called on governments that had not done so to ratify the protocol.

Starting in April, individual children or groups of children from the countries that have ratified the rotocolp will be able to submit complaints to the committee on specific violations related to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The convention is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations, providing protection and support for the rights of children.

Its three Optional Protocols deal, respectively, with protecting children from trafficking, prostitution and child pornography; prohibiting their recruitment in armed conflict; and allowing them to bring their complaints to the UN if their rights are being abused.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also applauded Costa Rica’s ratification, saying the third Option Protocol would strengthen accountability, helping to identify gaps in judicial systems for children at the national level.

The UN agency noted that the convention and its three protocols were particularly vital for children most vulnerable to human rights violations, especially those excluded and marginalised.

It identified the children as such with disabilities, and from indigenous or minority families.

Reported by NAN