June 10, 2014 – Now that ten countries have ratified the third optional protocol of the Child Rights Convention, children and teenagers may lodge complaints directly with the UN.
Belgium became the eleventh country to ratify the treaty late last month but it was Costa Rica’s accession in January that allowed the protocol to come into force in April, three months after the tenth country ratified it.
Only children and teenagers in the eleven countries that have ratified the protocol can make a complaint to the Child Rights Committee and, like other international human rights mechanisms, only after domestic remedies have been exhausted.
Violations must also have taken place after April 14th when the protocol came into force.
The eleven countries, on four continents, that have ratified optional protocol 3 are Albania, Belgium, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Gabon, Germany, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Thailand.
The office of the UN envoy for child rights has produced a child-friendly guide to understanding the optional protocol procedure for making complaints.
When the General Assembly were debating the text of the optional protocol in 2011, there was much discussion on the capacity of children to make complaints to an international group with some states arguing that complaints should be brought by parents on behalf of their children while others argued that parents are not always the best advocates as they may be the offenders.
Central to the Convention on the Rights of the Child is that children have a right to express their views at any age but in practice it is more likely that future complaints brought before the committee will be submitted on behalf of the children by their parents, a lawyer or others.
A major impetus in drafting optional protocol 3 was to encourage states to provide domestic mechanisms to address complaints by children of human rights abuses.
– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz