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.
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.