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Children empowered to complain about rights violations under new UN protocol

GENEVA (20 December 2011) – Children will be empowered to complain about violations of their human rights to an international body after the adoption by the General Assembly on Monday of a new Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure allows individual children to submit complaints regarding specific violations of their rights under the Convention and its first two optional protocols, one on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the other on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

“Children will now be able to join the ranks of other rights-holders who are empowered to bring their complaints about human rights violations before an international body,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

“We see every day examples of a wide range of human rights violations against children – from discrimination to child trafficking to all forms of physical or mental violence. I encourage States to sign this Optional Protocol to give child victims of such violations direct access to an international human rights complaints mechanism.”

The Optional Protocol was transmitted by the Human Rights Council to the General Assembly last June. It establishes a procedure to bring complaints under the Convention on the Rights of the Child similar to those that already exist for other core human rights treaties.

Upon receiving a complaint, the Committee on the Rights of the Child will examine it to determine whether the Convention has been violated. The Committee will guarantee that child-sensitive procedures and safeguards are put in place to prevent the manipulation of the child by those acting on his or her behalf under the Protocol.

While it is examining the complaint, the Committee may request the State to adopt interim measures to prevent possible irreparable damage to the child. It may also request protection measures to prevent reprisals, including further human rights violations, ill-treatment or intimidation, for having submitted such complaints. If the Convention is found to have been violated, the Committee will make specific recommendations for action to the State responsible.

“The new Protocol takes into consideration the particular, special needs of children,” Committee Chairperson Jean Zermatten said. “In fulfilling its functions under the Protocol, the Committee will be guided by the principle of the best interests of the child and will bear in mind the rights and views of the child.”

The Optional Protocol also provides for the Committee’s role in friendly settlement agreements and in ensuring follow-up to the recommendations made to States. It further provides that the Committee may initiate inquiries into grave and systematic violations of the Convention and its first two optional protocols.

The Protocol opens for signature in 2012 and will enter into force upon ratification by 10 UN Member States.

ENDS

For more information or interviews on the new Optional Protocol, please contact Carla Edelenbos on cedelenbos@ohchr.org or +41 22 917 9241.

To learn more about the new Optional Protocol, please visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/OEWG/index.htm

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