COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF CHILD CONCLUDES THIRTY-FIRST SESSION

HR/4624
4 October 2002

COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF CHILD CONCLUDES THIRTY-FIRST SESSION

04/10/2002
Press Release
HR/4624


Round-up


COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF CHILD CONCLUDES THIRTY-FIRST SESSION


Recommendations Adopted on Argentina, United Kingdom, Seychelles,

Sudan, Ukraine, Republic of Moldova, Burkina Faso, Poland and Israel


(Reissued as received.)


GENEVA, 4 October (UN Information Service) -- The Committee on the Rights of the Child concluded its thirty-first session today, having considered reports of

9 States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  As the Convention's monitoring body, the Committee made recommendations for the promotion and protection of children in Argentina, the United Kingdom, the Seychelles, the Sudan, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Burkina Faso, Poland and Israel.


The recommendations of the Committee's 10 members were contained in the final report for the session which was adopted today.


Concerning the report submitted by Argentina, the Committee noted with satisfaction that the state legislation regarding children in some of the provinces complied with the provisions and principles of the Convention.  It expressed concern that the phenomenon of child prostitution was increasing and it recommended that Argentina undertake a study on the issue of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children.


On the report of the United Kingdom, the Committee welcomed the entry into force of the Human Rights Act 1998, and the peace process in Northern Ireland.  While welcoming the abolition of corporal punishment in all schools, the Committee recommended that the United Kingdom urgently adopt legislation throughout the State party to remove the "reasonable chastisement" defence and prohibit all corporal punishment in the family and in other contexts not covered by existing legislation.


Among positive aspects related to the initial report of the Seychelles, the Committee noted the country's continued efforts to reform the Children's Act of 1982 and bring it fully into conformity with the Convention.  It recommended that the Seychelles undertake studies on domestic violence, ill-treatment and abuse, including sexual abuse, within the family in order to assess the extent, scope and nature of those practices.

Concerning the Sudan, the Committee noted the State party's progress in assisting the hundreds of thousands of persons displaced from their homes during the armed conflict, and the progress made in addressing the problem of landmines.  It recommended, among other things, that immediate action be taken to reduce infant, child and maternal mortality rates; and strengthen the provision of health care services.


On Ukraine, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the adoption of the 1996 Constitution giving legal recognition to human rights and freedoms of the individual.  It noted with deep concern that family disintegration, including high rates of divorce, growing numbers of single-parent families and cases of parental neglect, were a growing phenomenon and it recommended that the country strengthen its efforts to protect children's rights to a secure family environment.


Among positive aspects in the initial report of Moldova, the Committee noted with appreciation the adoption of the law on child rights of 1994, the law on youth of 1999 and the various decisions of the Government on children's issues.  It recommended, among other things, that social assistance and family support be improved, and all necessary measures be taken to prevent neglect and ill-treatment of children in institutions.


The Committee noted with appreciation the adoption by Burkina Faso of the 1996 Law on Education, of the ten-year Development Plan for Basic Education, and of the Law establishing a new Penal Code.  It urged the State party to continue its efforts to end the practice of female genital mutilation and to combat food taboos, which negatively affected the health of children, and implement programmes sensitizing the population about their harmful effects.


With regard to Poland, the Committee welcomed the adoption of a new Constitution in 1997 which embodied many of the principles of the Convention; and it recommended, among other things, that the State party institute health education and awareness programmes, specifically for adolescents, on sexual and reproductive health and the dangers of smoking and drug and alcohol abuse.


Concerning the initial report of Israel, the Committee welcomed the establishment and work of the Rotlevy Committee on Children and the Law and various parliamentary committees dedicated to advancing the rights of children.  It said it was concerned that discrimination, contrary to article 2 of the Convention persisted in Israel and recommended that effective measures be taken to ensure that all children enjoy all the rights set out in the Convention.


During the current session, the Committee also held a day of general discussion on the question of "the private sector as a service provider and its role in implementing child rights" and considered the impact of increasing participation of the private sector in the provision and funding of state-like functions on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  It also adopted a general comment on the Role of Independent National Human Rights Institutions in the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of the Child.


The Committee's next session will be held from 13 to 31 January 2003, during which the reports of Romania, the Republic of Korea, Italy, Estonia, the Solomon Islands, Viet Nam, the Czech Republic, Haiti and Iceland will be considered.


      Final Conclusions and Observations on Country Reports


ARGENTINA


Following the consideration of the second periodic report of Argentina, the Committee noted with satisfaction that state legislation regarding children in some of the provinces complied with the provisions and principles of the Convention.  It noted the recent establishment of the National Council for Children, Adolescents and the Family and the creation of the Office for Comprehensive Assistance for Victims of Crime; and it also noted with satisfaction the adoption of a National Plan of Action against Sexual Commercial Exploitation of Children.


The Committee was concerned that the principles of non-discrimination, best interests of the child, right to life, survival and development of the child and respect for the views of the child were not fully reflected in the State party's legislation and administrative and judicial decisions, as well as in policies and programmes relevant to children at all levels.  It recommended that the State party appropriately integrate those general principles of the Convention in all relevant legislation and decisions.


On the issue of the right not to be subjected to torture, the Committee expressed its deep concern about institutional violence and specific reports of torture and ill-treatment of children held at police stations which, in some cases, resulted in death.  It was also extremely concerned at additional reports of police brutality, specifically the phenomenon of "easy trigger syndrome", especially in the Province of Buenos Aires, which had led to the death of many children.  The Committee urged Argentina to undertake a study on the phenomena in order to assess the extent, scope and nature of those practices.


The Committee noted with concern the growing number of cases of HIV/AIDS among the youth, notwithstanding an existing National Plan of Action for HIV/AIDS, and reiterated its concern about the number of teenage pregnancies.  It recommended that Argentina increase its efforts to promote adolescent health policies.


While noting the increase in school enrolment for both primary and secondary schools, the Committee remained concerned at the limited access to education, high dropout and repetition rates and recommended that the budgetary allocation for education be increased.


On the issue of sexual exploitation and trafficking, the Committee was concerned that the phenomenon of child prostitution was increasing; and it recommended that the State party undertake a study on the issue of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children.


      UNITED KINGDOM


On the second periodic report of United Kingdom, the Committee welcomed the withdrawal of reservations made to articles of the Convention; the entry into force of the Human Rights Act 1998; the peace process in Northern Ireland; the establishment of the Children and Young People's Unit and the development of new child-focused structures in the Government throughout the State party; the adoption of Children Act 2000, and the Homelessness Act 2000; the completion of abolition of school corporal punishment in England, Wales and Scotland; and the adoption of the Standards in Scotland's Schools Act 2002.


While welcoming the adoption of the Race Relations Order 1997 and the United Kingdom's commitment to end discrimination in nationality law between children born in or out of wedlock, the Committee was concerned that the principle of non-discrimination was not fully implemented  for all children in all parts of the country.  It said that unequal enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights still existed, in particular for children with disabilities, children from poor families, Irish and Roma travellers' children, asylum and refugee children, children of minority groups, children in the care system, detained children, and children aged between 16 and 18 years.  It recommended that the State party monitor the situation.


The Committee welcomed the increasing encouragement of participation of and consultation with, children in government, local authorities and civil society throughout the State party; and it recommended that the United Kingdom take further steps to promote, facilitate and monitor systematic, meaningful and effective participation of all groups of children in society, including in schools.


Further, the Committee welcomed the abolition of corporal punishment in all schools in England, Wales and Scotland, following its 1995 recommendations, but was concerned that the abolition had not yet been extended to cover all private schools in Northern Ireland.  It recommended that the United Kingdom urgently adopt legislation throughout the State to remove the "reasonable chastisement" defence and prohibit all corporal punishment in the family and in other contexts not covered by existing legislation.


While noting efforts undertaken by the State party to reduce the numbers of teenage pregnancies, the Committee remained concerned at the high rate of teenage pregnancies in the State party; and recommended that it undertake further necessary measures to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancies.  The Committee was extremely concerned at the high proportion of children living in poverty in the United Kingdom which limited their enjoyment of many rights under the Convention.  It welcomed the State party's commitment to end child poverty and the initiative taken in that regard; and urged the United Kingdom to undertake efforts to the "maximum extent of available resources" to accelerate the elimination of child poverty.


The Committee welcomed the 2001 National Plan on safeguarding children from commercial sexual exploitation; it was nevertheless concerned that trafficking for sexual exploitation or other exploitation.  It was still a problem and that children sexually exploited were still criminalized by law; and it recommended that the State party undertake a study on the scope, causes and background of child prostitution. 


      SEYCHELLES


Among positive aspects in the initial report of the Seychelles, the

Committee noted the country's continued efforts to reform the Children's Act of 1982 and bring it fully into conformity with the Convention; the strong commitment to education and child and maternal health and the prohibition of corporal punishment in the home, schools and all other institutions involved the care or protection of children.


The Committee said it was concerned that under law there was a different minimum age for marriage for boys and girls and the age of compulsory education was not clear, given the differing implementation.  It recommended that the State party review its legislation with a view to rectifying differences in the minimum age of marriage, by raising the age for girls to that for boys; and that it establish a clear age for compulsory schooling and ensure that it was enforced.


It was also concerned that the principles of non-discrimination, best interests of the child, right to life, survival and development of the child and respect for the views of the child were not fully reflected in the State party's legislation and administrative and judicial decisions, as well as in policies and programmes relevant to children at all levels.  It recommended that the Seychelles appropriately integrate those general principles of the Convention in all relevant legislation and decisions.


While noting the country's efforts to ensure child participation, including through youth and school councils, the Committee remained concerned that children had limited opportunities in school, institutions, courts, administrative processes and in the home to express their views freely.  It recommended that children's views be given due consideration in all areas.


The Committee recommended that the State party undertake studies on domestic violence, ill-treatment and abuse, including sexual abuse, within the family in order to assess the extent, scope and nature of those practices; and establish effective procedures and mechanisms to receive, monitor, and investigate complaints.


The Committee also recommended that the State party increase its efforts to promote adolescent health, including mental health, by focusing in particular on the issues of reproductive health, substance abuse and health education in schools and institutions; and ensure the provision of comprehensive health services, counselling and support for pregnant girls.


      SUDAN


In its conclusions on the second periodic report of Sudan, the Committee noted the State party's progress in assisting the hundreds of thousands of persons displaced from their homes during the armed conflict, and the progress made in addressing the problem of landmines.  It welcomed, among other things, the establishment of children's and women's rights services within several ministries and bodies; the establishment of the Sudan National Committee for the Eradication of Harmful Practices; and the State party's various measures to improve respect for the rights of women, including the campaigns against female genital mutilation, against early marriage, as well as the encouragement of child spacing.


The Committee said it was concerned that the definition of the child was unclear under Sudanese law, and was not in conformity with the principles and provisions of the Convention; and recommended that the State party review its legislation so that the definition of the child, age of majority, and other minimum age requirements conform to the principles an provisions of the Convention.


It was further concerned that there were significant inequalities regarding access to basic health and education services, between children living in different parts of the country, and most especially between southern Sudan and the rest of the country and that there was discrimination with regard to children born out of wedlock, children with disabilities, refugee children, as well as discrimination on religious and ethnic grounds. It recommended that the State party ensure that all children enjoy equal respect for their rights.


The Committee was concerned that corporal punishment was widely practised in Sudan, including within the family, schools, and other institutions, that children had been the victims of violence by, among others, the police and that instances of torture, rape and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment had been committed against children in the context of the armed conflict.  It recommended that the State party prohibit under law the practice of corporal punishment and prevent all forms of violence against children.


The Committee noted the progress with regard to child immunization programmes but remained deeply concerned at the very poor availability, accessibility and quality of basic health care services; it recommended that immediate action be taken to reduce infant, child and maternal mortality rates; and strengthen the provision of health care services.


The Committee recommended that Sudan significantly increase public spending on education; ensure that primary education was free and compulsory for all children; and strengthen education infrastructure and resources.


      UKRAINE


Concerning the second periodic report of Ukraine, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the adoption of the new Constitution in June 1996, giving legal recognition to human rights and freedoms of the individual; the ratification of ILO Convention No. 182 on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour; the reforms to the education system; the enactment of new legislation on different areas; and the improvement in relations between Government and civil society.


The Committee was however, concerned, among other things, that despite its previous recommendations, there remained disparities in the minimum age of marriage for boys (18) and girls (17); and it was also concerned that there was no clearly defined minimum legal age for sexual consent.  It recommended that the State party rectify disparities in the age of marriage.


The Committee noted with deep concern that family disintegration, including high rates of divorce, growing numbers of single-parent families and cases of parental neglect, were a growing phenomenon.  It recommended that the State part, strengthen its efforts to protect children's right to a secure family environment, and ensure through a comprehensive new children's act effective protection of children and access for all children and parents in need of financial assistance.


The Committee was deeply concerned at the reduced quality and accessibility of health care services; and recommended urgently that the State party ensure that all children, especially from the most vulnerable groups had access to primary health care it called for the development of a national policy in order to ensure an integrated and multidimensional approach to early childhood development, with a focus on health and nutrition.


It recommended that the State party undertake the measures needed to address the increase in alcohol abuse, smoking and drug addiction and provide adolescents access to medical counselling and advice without parental consent, taking into account the evolving capacities of the child and undertake a comprehensive and multidisciplinary study to assess the nature and extent of adolescent health problems including the negative impact of STDs and HIV/AIDS.


The Committee further recommended that the State party ensure the availability of free education and its accessibility for all children in Ukraine, giving particular attention to children in rural communities, children from Roma, the Crimean Tatar and other minorities.


      MOLDOVA


Among positive aspects in the initial report of Moldova, the Committee noted with appreciation the adoption of the law on child rights of 1994, the law on youth of 1999 and the various decisions of the Government on children's issues; the establishment in 1998 of the National Council for Child Rights Protection in order to coordinate and ensure respect from the Convention; and the Preliminary Strategy for Poverty Reduction, the governmental decrees for a programme for social protection and the amendment of the law with regard to children with disabilities.


The Committee recognized the efforts made by Moldova to ensure that its national legislation complied with the Convention, but it remained concerned at the absence of strategies and resources to effectively enforce those laws; and it recommended that the State party develop a comprehensive approach on children's issues, develop an integrated long-term strategy and establish a mechanism for the implementation of the National Plan of Action.


It noted the development of Child Care Reform and the establishment of a working group for alternatives to institutionalization, but it expressed its serious concern at the high number of children who were placed in institutions for social protection measure purposes.  It recommended, among other things, that social assistance and family support be improved; and all necessary measures be taken to prevent neglect and ill-treatment of children in institutions.


While noting efforts to reorganize maternity and child care services and various programmes to improve children's health, the Committee remained concerned about the relatively high rates of infant and child mortality.  It recommended that the State party implement the National Health Policy and enforce the World Health Organization (WHO) programme on Promoting Effective Perinatal Care in order to further decrease perinatal and infant mortality.


The Committee noted with concern the declining expenditure on education; and recommended that the State party develop a National Strategy on Education For All; ensure regular attendance at schools and the reduction of dropout rates and improve the quality of education.


It further noted the development of some measures against trafficking in humans, but was nevertheless deeply concerned about the serious proportions of trafficking in girls from Moldova; it recommended that a study be undertaken on the issue of trafficking and all necessary measures be taken to strengthen the National Committee against Trafficking.


      BURKINA FASO


In the second periodic report of Burkina Faso, the Committee noted with appreciation the adoption of the 1996 Law on Education, of the ten-year Development Plan for Basic Education, and the Law establishing a new Penal Code; the establishment of a Ministry for the Promotion of Human Rights, of a children's Parliament, and of a National Council for the Promotion of Children; and the introduction of the rights of the child in the school curricula in primary education.


The Committee said it was concerned at the practice of forced and early marriages, which was still widespread; and it recommended that the State party ensure respect of the minimum age for marriage set up in the Code of the Individual and the Family, and take all necessary measures to prevent that employment of children interfered with their right to education.


While noting that child abuse was prohibited under the Penal Code, the Committee was concerned at the incidence of abuse, including sexual abuse, and neglect of children in the country; and it recommended that a study on violence be undertaken at schools and in other institutions in order to assess the scope, nature and causes of those practices; and an appropriate complaint procedure be established and children be informed on that mechanism.


While taking note of the adoption of several national programmes relating to child survival, the Committee was deeply concerned at the high infant and under-five mortality rates and low life expectancy in the State party.  It recommended that the State party reinforce its efforts to allocate adequate resources and develop and implement comprehensive policies and programmes; facilitate greater access to primary health services; and reduce the incidence of maternal, child and infant mortality.


The Committee urged the State party to continue its efforts to end the practice of female genital mutilation and to combat food taboos which negatively affected the health of children and implement programmes sensitizing the population about their harmful effects.


While welcoming the efforts undertaken by the State party to combat child trafficking through a national programme, it recommended that measures be taken to prevent and combat the sale and trafficking of children; the reunification of child victims with their families be facilitated and an adequate care and reintegration programme for them be provided.


      POLAND


Among positive aspects in the second periodic report of Poland, the Committee welcomed the adoption of a new Constitution in 1997 which embodied many of the principles of the Convention; the establishment in 2000 of the Office of the Ombudsman for Children; the various legislative measures taken to further implement the Convention; and the creation of the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for Family Matters and Equal Status of Men and Women.


Among its concerns, the Committee said that there was no clear minimum age of criminal responsibility and that in some cases children as young as ten years of age could be sentenced to educational measures.  It noted with concern that the principle of non-discrimination was not adequately implemented with respect to certain vulnerable groups of children, including children of the Roma and other ethnic minorities. It recommended that the State party increase its efforts to ensure implementation of existing laws guaranteeing the principle of non-discrimination.


The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party ensure periodic reviews of placement of children in institutions which take into account the views and best interests of the child; expand the foster care system by providing greater financial support to foster families; and establish procedures to ensure that children currently residing in institutions that were being closed down were fully informed.


The Committee was encouraged that health indicators of children were good and continuously improving.  Nevertheless, it was concerned at the increase of unhealthy behaviour and lifestyle trends, as well as the low percentage of mothers continuing to breast feed.


The Committee also recommended that the State party institute health education and awareness programmes, specifically for adolescents, on sexual and reproductive health and the dangers of smoking and drug and alcohol abuse in schools, community clubs, family centres and other institutions working with children; and ensure that children in rural areas had equal opportunities for a quality education which provided them with the skills to enter the labour market or university -level education based on merit.

      ISRAEL


As part of positive aspects in the initial report of Israel, the Committee welcomed the establishment and work of the Rotlevy Committee on Children and the Law, and various parliamentary committees dedicated to advancing the rights of children, including the Committee on Legislation for Children, and the Committee for the Advancement of the Status of the Child; the enactment of progressive legislation, including the 2002 Law for the Mentioning of Information regarding the Influence of Legislation on Children's Rights; and the affirmative action programmes for education of Israeli-Arabs, among other things.


On factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention, the Committee said that in the present context of violence, it recognized the difficulties of the State party to fully implement the Convention.  Amid continuing acts of terror on both sides, especially the deliberate and indiscriminate targeting and killing of Israeli civilian, including children, by Palestinian suicide-bombers, the Committee recognized the climate of fear which persisted, and Israel's right to live in peace and security.  And at the same time, the Committee recognized that the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, the bombing of civilian areas, extra-judicial killings, the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli Defence Forces, the demolition of homes, the destruction of infrastructure, mobility restrictions, and the daily humiliation of Palestinians continued to contribute to the cycle of violence.


The Committee said it was concerned that discrimination, contrary to article 2 of the Convention, persisted in the State party, and that non-discrimination was not expressly guaranteed constitutionally.  In particular, the Committee was concerned about discrimination against girls and women; discrimination on religious grounds; inequalities in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights of Israeli Arabs, Bedouins, Ethiopians and other minorities; and of the rights and freedoms of Palestinian children in the Occupied Territories.  It recommended that the State party take effective measures, including enacting or rescinding legislation to ensure that all children enjoy all the rights set out in the Convention.


The Committee welcomed Israel's many efforts to prevent and combat all forms of violence and abuse within the family, in schools and other institutions which cared for children.  It recommended that the State party establish a national and comprehensive strategy to prevent and combat violence and abuse.


The Committee was deeply concerned about the serious deterioration of health and health services and access to education of children in the occupied Palestinian territory.  It was also seriously concerned about the impact of terrorism on the rights of children in Israel, as well as the impact of military action on the rights of the children in the occupied Palestinian territory.  It recommended that the State party and other non-State actors establish and strictly enforce rules of engagement for military and other personnel which would fully respect the rights of children.

      General Comment on Role of Independent National Human Rights Institutions


The Committee also adopted a General Comment No.2 on the Role of Independent National Human Rights Institutions in the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of the Child recommending activities to be carried out by such institutions in relation to the implementation of children's rights in light of the general principles of the Convention.  Among other things, it recommended that investigations be carried out into any situation of violation of children's rights on complaint; inquiries be conducted on matters relating to children's rights; and harmonization of national legislation and practices with the Convention be promoted.


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For information media. Not an official record.