OP3 CRC is now in force

Children whose human rights have been violated are finally able to access justice through United Nations. 

(14/04/2014) The third optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (OP3 CRC) came into force today, allowing children to bring a complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee) when States have violated or failed to protect their rights.
This is a moment of celebration, but also reflection on the task ahead. OP3 CRC can now be used in ten countries on four continents, but remains inaccessible for most children around the world. The entry into force is a major achievement, but to make this complaints procedure a reality for all children, the ratification campaign must continue. Too often children lack the advice and support they need to access justice – whether they are forced to act through their parents, denied legal aid or their views are disregarded in court. OP3 CRC can provide redress for these children and help States to develop their legal systems to protect children’s rights, but only if States ratify the Protocol.

To celebrate the entry into force, the Ratify OP3 Coalition is co-hosting an event in New York with Albania, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Germany, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Thailand. You can watch the event live online at 13.15 New York time.

It is now time to look ahead to how children will be able to make use of OP3 CRC. Three new types of complaint are now possible to challenge violations of children’s rights:

  • Individual communications are the most direct form of complaint, and allow individuals, or groups of individuals to complain about a violation of their rights, either themselves or through their representatives.
  • Inquiries adopt a less judicial model, looking at grave or systematic violations of children’s rights across a country, rather than whether an individual’s rights have been violated.
  • Inter-State communications allow States to lodge complaints against other governments that have failed to live up to their children’s rights obligations. This procedure can only be used against a government that has specifically given the Committee permission to do so (so far Albania, Germany, Portugal and Slovakia).

The third Optional Protocol, like other international human rights mechanisms, exists for when protection fails at the national level. Complaints are not accepted for review until “domestic remedies have been exhausted”, meaning that complainants will have to try to resolve matters through the national legal system before bringing a complaint to the CRC. The violation must also have taken place after the Optional Protocol came into force, so after 14th April 2014. This barrier may substantially delay the first complaint to reach the Committee. If appeals have to be exhausted at the national level, it may well take years for a case to work its way to the CRC.

You can find out more about the procedure through our “what is OP3 CRC” page and our resources section.

The ongoing campaign for ratification

The entry into force is a major achievement, but also a starting point. It is now time for OP3 CRC to be used to enable children to access justice and to pursue ratification to bring that possibility to children around the world.

To date, Albania, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Gabon, Germany, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Thailand have all ratified and a further 37 States have signed but not ratified. You can keep up to date with the latest news on the ratification campaign through our new “ratification around the world” page, or check for regional updates.

You can also find out more about the work of the International Coalition and how to get involved.

Press release: Children can now seek justice through the UN

NEWS RELEASE – under embargo until 14 January, 4pm New York time                   Français

 CHILDREN CAN NOW SEEK JUSTICE THROUGH THE UN

States urged to ratify new treaty so more children can access international justice for rights abuses 

 (14.01.2014) Children whose human rights have been violated will finally be able to bring their cases to the United Nations after a new international treaty was enacted today.

Children suffer human rights abuses all over the world, including being sentenced to death, trafficked into hazardous child labour, and subjected to violence and sexual abuse. They are routinely neglected by decision makers and their views and opinions ignored. Ratify OP3 CRC, an international coalition of children’s rights NGOs, says the UN will now 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 (all countries have ratified except Somalia, South Sudan and the United States), 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.

Campaigners are urging governments around the world to ratify the new treaty so more children can access justice at the UN. A State is not bound by the treaty until it ratifies it.

Flore-Anne Bourgeois, Co-Chair of Ratify OP3CRC said: “Children suffer violations of their rights every day through armed conflicts, discrimination, violence in their communities, schools and homes, as well as lack of access to basic services such as education and healthcare, and their views and opinions are systematically ignored. The list is long. It is about time that abuses of children’s rights can be brought to the UN.”

“We urge all States to show their commitment to promoting and protecting children’s rights by ratifying this new treaty without delay so more children can access international justice.”

The new treaty, known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure (OP3 CRC) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2011. The treaty will become active in three months’ time after Costa Rica ratified it today. Albania, Bolivia, Gabon, Germany, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Thailand previously ratified.

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 14 April 2014 (three months from today), 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.

RESOURCES FOR CHILDREN AND THEIR ADVOCATES:

  • 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, Russian and Spanish
  • 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, and can be found here.
  • A letter for campaigners to send to their governments, urging them to sign/ratify. In English, French and Spanish
  • guide to using this new complaints procedure by Child Rights International Network (CRIN), a children’s rights advocacy NGO, is available free of charge. It also contains a comparison of similar complaints procedures under other human rights treaties.

For media enquiries and interviews, please contact Anita Goh; goh@childrightsconnect.org.

NOTES TO EDITORS

Ratify OP3 CRC – International Coalition for the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure – is a coalition of international, regional and national non-governmental organisations and networks, human rights institutions and other non-governmental bodies which are committed to achieve rapid ratification and entry into force of the OPCRC on a Communications Procedure (OP3 CRC). It succeeds the NGO Working Group that coordinated the international campaign for the drafting and adoption of the OP3CRC, under the NGO Group for the CRC, based in Geneva, Switzerland. Its Steering Committee is made up of the following organisations: Child Rights Coalition Asia, Child Rights Connect, Child Rights International Network (CRIN), Eurochild, Kindernothilfe, Plan International, Red latinoamericana y caribeña por la defensa de los derechos de los niños, niñas y adolescentes (Redlamyc), Save the Children, Terre des Hommes International Federation (TDHIF) and, World Vision

BACKGROUND TO THE UN COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE FOR CHILDREN

What is the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure (OP3 CRC)?

It 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).

How does OP3 work?

There are three types of complaint:

  1. Individual complaints – individuals or groups of individuals allege a violation.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.