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Committee on the Rights of the Child reviews Guinea's reports on children in armed conflict and on sale of children

Committee on the Rights of the Child

26 September 2017

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Guinea under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and the initial report under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Sékou Konaté, Director for Children’s Affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Advancement of Women and Children’s Affairs, said that the respect for the rights of the child had always been at the centre of the country’s concerns, and that those rights were proclaimed in the Constitution and expressed more explicitly in the legislative and regulatory texts intended to protect the children and punish the perpetrators of violations.  The country had paid a heavy price in the face of the epidemic of Ebola haemorrhagic fever, which had increased the vulnerability of children.  The Government had signed 12 commitments to reduce child poverty by 2019 and the national child policy had been updated to take account of developments in the situation.  The Child Code Act had been revised with a view to aligning it with other legal texts as part of the reform of the justice sector. 

Following the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict in 2001, Guinea had taken steps to prohibit the recruitment of persons under the age of 18 and their direct involvement in armed conflict.  The provisions of the Children's Code protected and afforded all possible guarantees to refugee children affected by armed conflict.  The provisions of the Optional Protocol had been taken into account both in the Constitution and in the Child Code Act. 

With regards to the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Child Code had been harmonized with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, conventions 138 and 182 of the International Labour Organization and other instruments, and Guinea was a party to numerous bilateral and regional treaties on combating trafficking in persons.  A new child policy had been set up, to be implemented through triennial action plans, and would focus on prevention and caring for children victims of abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence.  The fight against the sale of children, the worst forms of child labour, trafficking and sexual violence against children were among the priorities for the Government of Guinea.

During the dialogue, Experts acknowledged progress in the implementation of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and asked about the efforts to disseminate its provisions, data collection and coordination, trainings of peacekeepers, military school curricula, and birth registration.  Particular attention was given to the demobilization and reintegration of children in Kaleya and other children associated with armed groups, and the ongoing efforts to prevent children from joining conflict areas across the border. 

On the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Experts asked about data collection, institutional coordination and monitoring.  Issues of sex tourism, “confiage” system and assistance to victims of trafficking in persons as well as definition of offences under the Optional Protocol were discussed.  There must be greater clarity in the legislation on the prohibition of trafficking in children, particularly with regard to sanctions against traffickers; also, a distinction between sale of children and trafficking of children must be clearly made, which was particularly important given that Guinea bordered Mali, a country which did not abolish slavery.

Aly Diane, Permanent Representative of Guinea to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in closing remarks, reaffirmed the commitment to addressing the remaining concerns within set deadlines. 

In his closing statement, Mr. Konaté, assured the Experts that their recommendations would be incorporated in the Children’s Code, the main guide on children protection for the Guinean authorities. 

In her closing remarks, Suzanne Aho Assouma, Committee Vice-Chair and Rapporteur for Guinea, urged Guinea to further harmonize the Children’s Code in particular with regards to the definition of trafficking in persons, build the capacity of various mechanisms and institutions and ensure that adequate resources were allocated so that the policies would be truly implemented.

The delegation of Guinea included representatives of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Advancement of Women and Children’s Affairs, and the Permanent Mission of Guinea to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee’s concluding observations on the reports of Guinea will be published on the session’s webpage after 29 September 2017.

The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Tuesday 26 September to review the initial report of Cyprus under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC/C/OPAC/CYP/1).  Live webcast of the meeting will be available at http://webtv.un.org/

Report

The Committee is considering the initial reports of Guinea under the two Optional Protocols, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC/C/OPSC/GIN/1), and on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC/C/OPAC/GIN/1). 

Consideration of the Report under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict

Presentation of the Report

SÉKOU KONATÉ, Director for Children’s Affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Advancement of Women and Children’s Affairs of Guinea, underlined that the quality of the delegation he led was a testimony to the importance that the Guinean authorities placed on human rights in general and that the respect for the rights of the child had always been at the centre of the country’s concerns.  The fundamental rights of the child were proclaimed in the Constitution and expressed more explicitly in the legislative and regulatory texts intended to protect them and punish the perpetrators of violations.  The country had paid a heavy price in the face of the epidemic of Ebola haemorrhagic fever, which had increased the vulnerability of children.  The Government had signed 12 commitments to reduce child poverty by 2019 and the national child policy had been updated to take account of developments in the situation.  The Child Code Act had been revised with a view to aligning it with other legal texts as part of the reform of the justice sector.

Since the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict in 2001, Guinea had taken steps to prohibit the recruitment of persons under the age of 18 and their direct involvement in armed conflict.  This was reflected in the enactment of a number of laws, including on the status of the police, the code of military justice, the status of military personnel and the status of refugees in Guinea.  In addition, the provisions of the Children's Code protected and afforded all possible guarantees to refugee children affected by armed conflict.  Mr. Konaté stressed that the provisions of the Optional Protocol had been taken into account both in the Constitution and in the Child Code Act. 

Guinea had set up a community identification system through the child protection system which operated both at the central and community level.  An independent National Human Rights Institution had been established, as well as the Constitutional Court and the Higher Judicial Council, while the military justice system had been reformed.  Dissemination efforts were being undertaken to raise awareness among all those working with children, including security and defence sector.  Numerous regional workshops had been organized in the past three years to promote children’s rights.  On the administrative level, the new law on judicial organization had brought about important changes.  In spite of the overall achievements, additional efforts were needed to bolster and include children’s concerns in all strategies and policies, concluded Mr. Konaté.

Questions by the Committee Experts

BENYAM MEZMUR, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Guinea, asked the delegation to clarify why it had taken so long after the ratification in 2001 to adopt the law incorporating the Optional Protocol in the domestic legislation in 2011, and also asked to which extent the law adopted prior to the ratification of the Optional Protocol was aligned with this instrument?

The Committee on the Protection of Human Rights was a national coordination body, remarked the Rapporteur and asked how the coordination was done and how effective it was?  Was this Committee also in charge of data collection?

On the issue of dissemination, the report stated that court officials, social workers, members of defence sector and members of other agencies had been trained on the implementation of the Optional Protocol.  Did the trainings include immigration officers and had they been assessed for impact?

What would be the contribution that the national human rights institution could make to data collection and monitoring mechanisms?

SUZANNE AHO ASSOUMA, Committee Vice-Chair and Rapporteur for Guinea, asked what had been done to improve health infrastructure following the Ebola crisis and what budget had been allocated for this purpose? 

She pointed to the instability in the region and the conflicts which had broken out prior to the Ebola epidemics, and noted the vulnerability of the country to internal conflicts due to the political, economic or social demands.  The country had also experienced an influx of refugees since 1990 due to the instability in the region, notably in Cote d’Ivoire, and there were also returnees from neighbouring countries. 

The Rapporteur noted cases of recruitment of minors between 2000 and 2001 by armed groups in the context of the conflict in Liberia, and, welcoming the military law that prohibited the recruitment of persons under the age of 18 into the army, asked about the measures taken to ensure that children were not recruited in armed conflicts in those situations.

What birth registration mechanism was in place, particularly in rural areas?

The Rapporteur asked the delegation to confirm that no child had been recruited by armed groups and to inform about the curriculum and regulation of military schools as well as the oversight exercised by the Government.

With regard to child soldiers recruited by armed groups in the past and the programmes implemented for their reintegration with the help of international partners, were the social reintegration measures still ongoing?  What had been done to address the recruitment of young volunteers in 2009 in Kaleya, including the judicial investigations?  Did the children still live in the Kaleya camp and were the recruited children considered to be victims or perpetrators?

Ms. Aho Assouma expressed concern about children involved in political violence and asked whether any measures were being taken with regard to these children, including to implement programmes to combat youth violence.

Other Experts raised a question on the international cooperation, including with the United Nations agencies and also asked about the readiness of the Government to embark on raising the awareness on female genital mutilation and other issues not yet included in dissemination efforts?

The delegation was asked about the results of the work of the Commission on proliferation of small arms, and the training provided to the peacekeepers, considering that in 2007, the country had contributed 850 troops to the United Nations peacekeeping efforts; the extraterritorial application of the Optional Protocol; and the policy in place to address alcohol and drug abuse, and to identify and support street children.  Once children were intercepted at border crossings and returned to their parents, what measures were in place to ensure that they did not go back to conflict zones?

Replies by the Delegation

In response to questions raised about the institutional framework, a delegate said that the Guinean Committee on the protection of human rights comprised both governmental and civil society stakeholders and was operating under the Ministry of Social Affairs, Advancement of Women and Children’s Affairs.  It was tasked with monitoring the implementation of all conventions and protocols related to child protection, while children’s protection was mainstreamed across numerous sectors.

With regards to the socio-professional reintegration of demobilized children, there was a centre for reintegration of children which provided vocational training to enable them to get a job.  The International Organization for Migration participated in such efforts as well as the United Nations Children’s Fund.  Over 3,600 individuals had undertaken such vocational courses, particularly boys and teenage mothers.  Community support was offered to some categories of children, while a bilateral agreement on seasonal mobility with Senegal was in place.  The National Policy on the Promotion and Protection of Children’s Rights and Well-Being regulated the demobilization and reintegration policies.  The Delegation also pointed out that reintegration programs had been carried out by the Ministry in charge of youth in addition to the one carried out by the army, including a programme to enable young people to learn entrepreneurship and to strengthen their capacity, particularly in the mining sector. Schools of arts and crafts were being opened by the State in several regions of the country.

There were no other armed groups or rebel groups in Guinea, there was only the national army which meant that all recruitment happened according to the procedures in place.

On the subject of "the Kaleya period" of 2009, the delegation explained that this was an exceptional case in the history of the country, which should not be confused with the period 2000-2001, when the wars of Sierra Leone and Liberia had broken out and the rebel incursions into the south of the country had occurred.  In 2009, there had been a very ephemeral period of around six months during which young people had been recruited in Kaleya; today, it did not exist as a recruitment centre for young people, but it had become a training and retraining centre for the Guinean army, which provided qualification trainings and served to improve the capacity of military officials.  Those courses were opened only to individuals aged 18 and over.

The curriculum in military schools included international humanitarian law and human rights, and was harmonized with the general education system.  A national institution for combating corruption had been established within the Inspectorate General operating under the Ministry of Finance and Economy, while an anti-corruption law had recently been adopted by the National Assembly.

The delegation acknowledged the shortcomings in birth registration system, particularly in the “Guinée forestière” and said that, with the support of the European Union, a modern birth registration system was being developed; it would, among others, combat the falsification of identity documents, thus contributing to preventing the recruitment of minors.

The Ebola period had been a very painful one for the country.  It had put the health system to a grave test and had revealed all its shortcomings; bilateral cooperation during this period had enabled the strengthening of the health system.  Following the crisis, an integrated healthcare approach had been adopted, ranging from prevention to income generating activities.

The disease had orphaned 6,234 children and affected 130,000 in total; the care for the orphans had been set up in cooperation with social workers and non-governmental organizations, said a delegate, stressing that the Government wanted to avoid building orphanages and had opted for foster care and psycho-social support and counselling.  The support of the United Nations Children’s Fund had been instrumental in this process. 

As concerns the involvement of children in political parties, the delegation said that a number of initiatives had been put in place to reach out to political parties and explain that children should not be part of the political parties.  Municipal councils were also involved in outreach activities.

The international cooperation with the United Nation agencies did include dissemination of all aspects of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflicts, said the delegation and acknowledged the long time it took to incorporate the instrument.  During that decade, the country had invested significant efforts in raising the knowledge on the instrument and introducing measures enabling its implementation.

Concerning the cross-border movement and the problem of porous borders, including children going to conflict areas in Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the delegation stated that child protection forces were present and operating at the borders, intercepting such movements and bringing the children back to their families.

Consideration of the Report under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography

Presentation of the Report

SÉKOU KONATÉ, Director for Children’s Affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Advancement of Women and Children’s Affairs of Guinea, stated that the Code of Children had been harmonized with the international instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, conventions 138 and 182 of the International Labour Organization, the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.  In addition, Guinea was a party to numerous treaties in the area of trafficking in persons, including the 2005 bilateral cooperation agreement with Mali to combat the cross-border trafficking of children, the 2005 multilateral cooperation agreement on combating trafficking of children signed with eight countries in the region, the 2006 multilateral cooperation agreement on combating trafficking in persons, particularly women and children in West Africa, and the June 2017 agreement with Senegal on the promotion of children’s rights. 

Institutional set-up for the implementation of the Optional Protocol included the National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons and Children, the Inter-sectoral Committee on International Adoption and the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations to Combat Child Trafficking, the Office for the Protection of Gender, Children and Morals, as well as the unit within the armed forces and gendarmerie.  A new child policy had been set up, to be implemented through triennial action plans; the first plan 2017-2019 had already been adopted and presented to international development partners.  This new policy on children would focus on prevention and would continue to take care of children victims of abuse, abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence.  The Higher Council of Judiciary had been set up and it was addressing complaints against magistrates. 

The Government's policy was to create a protective environment for all children in the country, said Mr. Konaté, recognizing that this was a long-term process with many challenges, including poverty and illiteracy that affected a large part of the population; despite the efforts by the State and its partners to offer the Guinean child all the guarantees possible, many challenges remained.  In conclusion, Mr. Konaté said that the fight against the sale of children, the worst forms of child labour, trafficking in children and sexual violence against children were among the priorities of the Government of Guinea, and stressed the importance of the assistance of development partners in these efforts.

Questions by the Committee Experts

HATEM KOTRANE, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Guinea, welcomed the important changes made since the ratification of the Optional Protocol, including the establishment of the Inter-sectoral Committee on International Adoption.  The question on centralized data collection was raised, where no progress had been noted.

Could the delegation provide more information on the scope of work of the Office for the Protection of Gender, Children and Morals?  The Rapporteur noted the one million dollars increase in budget allocation towards child policy and asked what specific allocations, as well as human resources, were envisaged for child protection.

Concerning the criminalization of offences under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, the report stated that the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure had been consistent with the Protocol, so the delegation was asked to explain how such crimes were qualified.  Was child labour defined and punished as an instance of a sale of the child?

On the issue of impunity, what measures were in place to tackle impunity for all crimes under the Optional Protocol?  There were only two court rulings on trafficking in children charges, which was an extremely low rate.  Could the Optional Protocol on the sale of children be a legal basis for extradition? 

What efforts were being undertaken to disseminate the provisions among children, teachers, and professionals working with children. 

SUZANNE AHO ASSOUMA, Committee Vice-Chair and Rapporteur for Guinea, asked whether the child protection system in Guinea had sufficient resources particularly to reach all regions of the country, and also asked about the State’s involvement in the efforts of non-governmental organizations in the field of child protection, noting that some had to end their activities due to lack of resources.  Who were the mediators, how were they appointed and what was their real impact?

Regarding trafficking in children, Ms. Aho Assuma, noted that there was a movement of children crossing the border and that Guinea was a country of origin, transit and destination.  There must be greater clarity in the legislation on the prohibition of trafficking in children, particularly with regard to sanctions against traffickers, she said and asked whether the provisions were in place to punish parents who handed over their children for the purpose of trafficking.  The Rapporteur also inquired about the accompanying measures for trafficked children, including their reintegration and return.

On the issue of adoption, how was the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption being implemented?  Did the children leaving the country possess travel documents?  How frequently was trafficking disguised in the practice of "confiding" children, which involved the risk of abuse and exposure to sexual exploitation?

What were the causes of sex tourism and what was being done to address this problem, and also to address the problem of prostitution among minors?  What efforts were in place to raise awareness about pornography?

Other Committee Experts asked about the involvement of children in the reporting on the implementation of the Optional Protocol; to what extent the National Policy on the Promotion and Protection of Children’s Rights and Well-Being covered the issues of concern to the Optional Protocol, and how the policy was funded; and whether the national human rights institution had the functions of the independent monitoring mechanism and could receive complaints from children.

The delegation was asked to explain whether children prostitutes were treated as victims and whether children exchanging pornographic materials could be prosecuted since the law did not make a distinction between adults and children.  Additional information was requested on child labour and on forced begging and on measures provided to victims of trafficking and children returning from border areas.  Guinea bordered Mali, a country which did not abolish slavery, thus it was very important to ensure that the distinction between trafficking and sale of children was enshrined in the law.

The Office for the Protection of Gender, Children and Morals had received public funding of approximately 28,000 dollars to investigate cases of trafficking and offer assistance to victims – how many cases of trafficking in persons had been prosecuted and what were the future plans for the Office?

Experts welcomed the criminalization of debt bondage in the 2016 Criminal Code and noted that judges were still not fully aware of those new provisions – what was being done to address this issue?

Replies by the Delegation

In response to the questions raised on data collection, the delegation said that very few studies had been conducted, but there were other forms of data gathering.  Planning and assessment unit for the protection of children existed and there were ongoing efforts to create a centralized database.  A project had been put in place by Terre des Hommes and the United Nations Children’s Funds to align variables in the child protection used by the National Institute for Statistics.

The delegation acknowledged difficulties in human resources and capacities which was why feminization and rejuvenation of public sector was underway, including through a European Union-supported programme which promoted employment of women and youth.

Drafting of the report was a participatory process which had included children.  Children’s Parliament was an extremely important structure in Guinea, and they had access to the Government.  The twelve steps programme to combat child poverty was also approved by the Children’s Parliament.

In the area of adoption, efforts were underway to reform the system and align it with the general provisions of the Hague Adoption Convention, with the assistance from France and Belgium.  The international adoption had been suspended with France in 2012 when the project had started, and subsequently with other countries as well.  France had recently funded training activities and a handbook had been prepared for the adoption centre.

Prevention of violence was being implemented through child protection units which were in charge of awareness raising activities.  Reintegration services for street children were in place.  School syllabus included topics of violence, and a helpline had been recently established by non-governmental organizations.  The role of mediators was similar to that of social workers in prefectures.  The Children’s Code included a list of hazardous work situations and the Ministry of Labour had taken part in the creation of the list.  Local protection committees were in place as well as a mechanism to report rape and other forms of violence.

Regulating access to cinemas was an important element in preventing pornography, as all films or videos had to undergo the authorization of the National Film Office.  On the issue of budget allocation, the delegation explained that the sum of 28,000 dollars had come from the special President’s funds used to finance some of the awareness and training activities of the National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons and Children.

The national anti-trafficking strategy was being developed in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

On the community level there were tools for the identification of vulnerable children.  The national policy for social protection had been adopted in 2017, said the delegation and recalled that the month of June was designated to promoting the mobility and social protection of children across Africa.

Concerning child labour, there was a trend of children leaving school in order to pursue work in small scale gold-mining; the Government worked with municipal centres to raise awareness about the pitfalls of such practices. 

Most of the centres for victims of trafficking had been closed, however community structures had been set up to assist child victims of trafficking returning from Senegal or Mali.  Moreover, foster families had been set up to avoid institutionalization of children.  The National Directorate for Children had a programme to assist victims of trafficking and did not solely rely on non-governmental organizations. 

The ongoing revision of the Children’s Code was an opportunity to include the Committee’s recommendations concerning the definition of offences under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children.  The National Committee to combat human trafficking, with support from its partners, held trainings and meetings to raise awareness of the Children’s Code among the judiciary, police and social workers in the seven administrative regions of the country.

The practice of “confiage” or confiding the children was a traditional one; as it had not been outlawed, whenever an incident was reported, the authorities would get in touch with the family and provide adequate support.

The National Human Rights Institution was an extremely important mechanism, which had junior deputies working in each prefecture on awareness-raising activities.

On substance abuse, there was no specific law outlawing the use of alcohol, but the new trend of smoking shishas in nightclubs was noticed and there were attempts to address this problem.  Smoking was being addressed through awareness-raising campaigns and more and more establishments banned smoking in their premises.

Closing Remarks

ALY DIANE, Permanent Representative of Guinea to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the Committee Experts for assessing the measures by Guinea and reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to addressing the remaining concerns within set deadlines. 

SÉKOU KONATÉ, Director for Children’s Affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Advancement of Women and Children’s Affairs of Guinea, stressed that the delegation had come with the primary goal to learn from the Experts thus their recommendations would be incorporated in the Children’s Code, the main guide on child protection for Guinean authorities.

SUZANNE AHO ASSOUMA, Committee Vice-Chair and Rapporteur for Guinea, noted that a review of the legislative framework was in order so that appropriate measures could be implemented.  The Children’s Code needed further harmonization, in particular with regards to the definition of trafficking in children.  Institutions needed to properly conduct coordination and resources had to be allocated so that policies would be truly implemented.  Birth registration mechanism should be strengthened, and curriculum in military schools improved.  Building of capacity of various mechanisms was also recommended.

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