GENEVA (31 May 2016) - The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Luxembourg on the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
Jean-Marc Hoscheit, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations Office at Geneva, introducing the report, said the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on combatting the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, had been transposed into Luxembourg’s law. There was a long-standing tradition of cooperation with civil society and many activities in favour of children were financed and run by foundations and not-for-profit organizations. Luxembourg was aware that there were improvements to be made, in the legislation, structures and procedures it had put in place, and welcomed the dialogue with the Committee Experts in this regard.
Committee Experts congratulated Luxembourg on the ratification of the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure in February 2016, and the ratification of other important regional and international instruments, and for being very proactive in aligning its legislation. Experts also welcomed the criminalization of the sale of children in 2014, but were concerned that the law offered a very broad definition of the crime and as such did not sufficiently cover the crimes of the sale in a child’s organs, forced child labour and international adoption without the consent of the child. Other issues discussed included statistics and data collection, coordination mechanisms, dissemination of the Optional Protocol, training of officials in human rights, identification of victims, and preventative measures. Experts also asked about measures to empower children to protect themselves from online grooming and sexting, as well as to raise awareness of new forms of sexual abuse, including by other children.
In concluding remarks, Maria Rita Parsi, Member of the Committee and Rapporteur for the report of Luxembourg, expressed appreciation for the work on guaranteeing the rights of the child and hoped that as a rich and prosperous country, Luxembourg would continue to do even more.
In concluding remarks, Hatem Kotrane, Member of the Committee and Rapporteur for the report of Luxembourg, said that once again Luxembourg had demonstrated its commitment to the rights of the child and to this Committee.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Hoscheit reiterated the great importance Luxembourg attached to the work of treaty bodies and this Committee, and the Universal Periodic Review, and said Luxembourg would apply the Experts’ constructive feedback and the Committee’s concluding observations.
The delegation of Luxembourg consisted of representatives of the Ministry of National Education, Children and Youth, National Office for Children, Public Prosecutor’s Office, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Permanent Mission of Luxembourg to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 3 June at 5 p.m., when it will close its seventy-second session.
The country reviews can be watched via live webcast at http://www.treatybodywebcast.org
The initial report of Luxembourg under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography can be read via the following link: CRC/C/OPSC/LUX/1.
Presentation of the Report
JEAN-MARC HOSCHEIT,Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations Office at Geneva, introducing the report, reiterated the commitment of Luxembourg to the protection of children from the abominable crimes of sale, pornography and prostitution, including through the ratification of all international instruments in this matter. Luxembourg had transposed into its law the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on combatting the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, also known as “the Lanzarote Convention”.
Luxembourg favoured a stricter interpretation of those texts, while the commitment to the best possible protection of children was often seen in the hard interpretation of the law by courts. Luxembourg was aware that there were improvements to be made, in the legislation and in structures and procedures it had put in place, and was keen to hear from the Experts on how it could improve. Luxembourg had a long tradition of cooperation with civil society and many activities in favour of children were financed and run by foundations and not-for-profit organizations. This was also the case for activities relating to the Optional Protocol, for example in running hot lines or shelters for victims.
Questions by the Country Rapporteurs and Committee Experts
MARIA RITA PARSI,Member of the Committee and Rapporteur for the report of Luxembourg, noted positively the high standard of living that Luxembourg accorded to its children and regretted that the lack of systematic regulation of statistics on cases under the Optional Protocol caused insufficient attention to those crimes. What were Luxembourg’s intentions concerning the establishment of centralizeddata collection and analysis in this regard? Although the official statistics were lacking, it seemed that crimes under the Optional Protocol were on the increase. The Office of theOmbudsperson had limited resources, and rules that governed its activities for the protection of children were not clear. What initiatives were in place todisseminate the Optional Protocol and ensure thattraining in human rights and preventive measures were cross-cutting aspects of education in primary and secondary school, and were part of continuing education among the judiciary, police, prosecutors, public officials, and education and social sectors? Did officials receive training inidentifying victims of the sale of children, what was the process once the victim was identified, and did officials and civilians have a legal obligation to report those crimes? Lack of an anonymous line to report crimes might be one factor which hampered the identification of victims.
What awareness campaigns would be taken among children and youth concerningonline grooming and sexting, and to empower them to protect themselves? The delegation was asked about the national action plan for combatting trafficking in persons, the provision of support to groups vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation, intentions to raise the minimum age from 10 years in the existing legal definition of grooming, and measures to limit the exposure of children to highly sexualized images of children on the Internet. Sexual abuse of children by children seemed to be on the increase, and Ms. Parsi asked about measures taken to address this. What plans were in place to address the sexual abuse of children in institutions, and to establish an adequate structure to care for victims with particular psychological and psychiatric needs?
HATEM KOTRANE,Member of the Committee and Co-Rapporteur for the report of Luxembourg, congratulated Luxembourg on the significant progress made since the last review in 2013 and on theratification of the third Optional Protocol on a communications procedure in February 2016. Luxembourg had also ratified other important regional and international instruments and was very proactive in aligning its legislation with those. Which measures had been taken to address the Committee’s concluding observations, in particular those relating to reservations to the Convention? The Committee was pleased to see the work of theOmbudsperson for the Rights of the Children, and Mr. Kotrane inquired about measures to ensure transparency and impartiality in the selection and appointment of the ombudsperson, and the resources allocated to the Office and the mandate in relation to the implementation of the Optional Protocol. Another concern was that Luxembourg as yet had not adopted anoverarching policy for the protection and caring of victims.
Mr. Kotrane welcomed the adoption in April 2014 of the law on strengthening the rights of victims of trafficking in persons, which allowed the amendment of the Penal Code and thecriminalization of the sale of children. However, he expressed concern about the very broad definition of the sale of the children in this law. The nature of the crime required very stringent, specific and precise definitions. The law in Luxembourg reflected the provisions of the Lanzarote Convention, but was insufficient as far as the requirements of the Optional Protocol were in relation to the sale and trafficking of children. Mr. Kotrane asked the delegation how it planned to ensure that crimes and definitions in the Penal Code conformed to article 3 of the Optional Protocol and to ensure that the crime of the sale of children also encompassed organ trafficking, forced child labour, and international adoptions contrary to international instruments regulating them. What provisions were in place to consider the Optional Protocol itself as a basis forextraterritorial jurisdiction and for extradition?
Another Expert asked about the progress achieved in the practice ofrestorative justice.
Replies by the Delegation
Luxembourg had succeeded in bringing together social care, formal and non-formal education, disabilities, and other areas under the Ministry of National Education, Childhood and Youth, which was in charge of overseeing the wellbeing of all children in the country, including in pre-school and school environments, inclusive education, alternative care, etc. A law had just been adopted under which the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Rights of the Child, the centralcoordination body, would be set up and start operating in September 2016. Following up on its Universal Periodic Review recommendation, as well as recommendations by several treaty bodies, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Human Rights had been established in 2015, tasked with the monitoring of the implementation of international treaties, making sure that reporting schedules were met, and that treaty bodies’ concluding observations and recommendations were taken up by relevant bodies.
Luxembourg had just undergone the first round of monitoring under the Lanzarote Convention and it had become obvious that many of the States parties to this Convention had a problem in keeping and crosslinking statistics on child sexual abuse that was collected by different parts of the Government. Luxembourg was committed to improve the collection ofstatistics and data.
Luxembourg was preparing a bill which would see the expansion of the Children’s Committee into theOffice of Ombudsperson for the Rights of the Child, and would also resolve the issues related to the selection and nomination of the ombudsperson and the issue of the budget and human and financial resources. The legislation onhuman trafficking was being prepared and an inter-ministerial Committee had been set up to this end, under the Ministry of Equal Opportunities. The Ministry had also developed training courses which were routinely offered to officials and Ministry members.
There was a long-standing tradition in Luxembourg of working together withnon-governmental organizations and private foundations, which often had more imagination in how to address the issues and were much closer to the ground and those in need. The Government was often in favour of supporting private and civil society initiatives and campaigns, rather than starting public ones which could often be more costly. The number offoster families in Luxembourg was proportionally smaller than in other countries; in the 1970s, Luxembourg had invested significant resources in developing a family-like system of care, and today had a network of such small groups which were “run” by trained professionals. Campaigns were ongoing to recruit foster families, and Luxembourg was continuing with its efforts to have in place a system with a greater number of foster families.
In 2012, the funding for thechild protection sector had changed from funding institutions to funding individuals, based on the specific analysis of difficulties faced by children. A particular role of the coordinator had been established in 2011/2012, as well as the role of case manager for children with psychological or psychiatric difficulties. The budget for the sector had increased from 43 million Euro in 2010 to 90 million Euro in 2013, which was an indication of the Government’s understanding and the importance it accorded to this problem. The number of children who had benefited from assistance had increased by some 70 per cent, from 1.52 per cent of the overall population in 2012 to 4.2 per cent in 2015. The Ministry ran two flagship services: psychosocial assistance within families via mobile services, and psychosocial therapeutic consultations for youth and children in difficult situations, including children victims of abuse and trafficking.
As far aschildren in alternative care were concerned, 34 per cent of children were in foster families and 66 per cent in institutions, which proportionally was on a par with Belgium for example. A draft bill on foster care had been introduced this year, which should enter into force later in 2016. The reference framework for the selection of foster families, a rather novel policy in the country, had been adopted and had approved the selection of homosexual and mono-parental families as foster families. Luxembourg agreed with the principle that children under the age of three should not be institutionalized, but noted that an exception should be made in the case of children of violent drug and alcohol abusers; because there were very few foster families in the country, and were therefore easy to identify by violent parents, children should be placed in institutions where they were safer as institutions were better equipped to deal with violent parents. The State Educational Institute had been established in 2015, and it was in charge of providing mandatory training in human rights, children rights, the Optional Protocol, and other matters, to all State officials who worked with children. The Government was also financing training courses on child sex tourism.
Responding to questions related to measures and activities toraise awareness among children of their rights and empower them to protect themselves from abuse, bullying and online grooming, the delegation explained that, guided by the 2009 School Law, and in cooperation with parents, teachers and pupils, a charter of children’s rights had been prepared and was prominently displayed in schools. A new Department on Life had been created in the Ministry of National Education, Children and Youth, which ensured the inclusion in the curriculum of issues such as values, democratic rights, rights of an individual, including faith, coexistence in the society, and teaching children how to speak and engage in a dialogue. Additionally, a part of the curriculum introduced children to the sciences, including sexual education, under which children were taught about their bodies, how to say no, and about limits and boundaries. All those activities were under the aegis of the Ministry of National Education, Child and Youth which worked closely with other ministries to ensure child and learner oriented approaches. Activities took place also in pre-school environments, and Luxembourg sought to create active links between school and out-of-school environments, and with parents, in order to ensure the better protection of children, and the better fulfilment of obligations and responsibilities with regard to the rights of the child.
Online grooming of children under the age of 16 was a criminal offence, punishable with up to three months imprisonment. The age of the child in this instance was set at 16 which was the age of sexual consent; children up to the age of 18 could not be included in the law and the Government did not deem appropriate to raise the age of sexual consent to 18 years. Luxembourg had opted for a widedefinition of the sale of children in its legislation, in order to be able to address other crimes which were not covered by the Optional Protocol to the Convention. Extraterritorial jurisdiction and extradition could not be based solely on the Optional Protocol, but on the provisions of international law transposed into domestic law.
Responding to Experts’ follow-up questions, the delegation explained that article 13 of the Penal Code criminalized thegrooming of children through social networks, which was also subject to a hefty sentence, and that not only explicit but implicit grooming were recognized by the law. In drafting the law criminalizing child pornography, Luxembourg followed all the Committee’s recommendations and prohibited the production, possession, and handling of images, online, offline and on paper. The crime of thesale of children was included in the Penal Code in 2014, and so far there had been no reports, through the police or other channels, of this offence. The Public Prosecutor’s Office had a section dedicated to the sale of children and child trafficking, and there were specialized police units and specially trained police officers. Article 23 of the Penal Code defined theresponsibility of public officials to report crimes, regardless of issues of confidentiality or professional secrecy. The public was encouraged to report crimes against minors, and not to worry about reprisals or risks to themselves.
A Committee Expert asked about two main criteria for the selection offoster families, the maximum time-frame a child could spend in foster families, the efforts to reunite the child with the biological family, and the obstacles and challenges in the system of foster families.
A delegate said that the main criterion was the parental skills and enthusiasm of the foster parents. The decision to become a foster family must be taken over a period of time and must be carefully considered, both by the administration and the family itself, including children. The intra-family dynamic must be carefully monitored, as well as the issues within the family that might not be obvious at the first glance, such as alcoholism, mental illness, and others. One of the problems involved in fostering was failed fostering of children aged eight to 15, following which the foster child would enter an institution.
Asked aboutage determination for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, and what other measures were in place apart from medical procedures, a delegate said that Luxembourg used bone measurement and agreed that medical examinations were not always accurate. An individual would be deemed a minor until it was proven otherwise, and a lack of clarity would be interpreted in favour of the minor.
MARIA RITA PARSI,Member of the Committee and Rapporteur for the report of Luxembourg, expressed appreciation for the fruitful collaboration with the Committee and the work on guaranteeing the rights of the child and hoped that as a rich and prosperous country, Luxembourg would continue to do even more.
HATEM KOTRANE,Member of the Committee and Co-Rapporteur for the report of Luxembourg, said that once again Luxembourg had demonstrated its commitment to the rights of the child and to this Committee. The concluding observations would aim to assist the State party in the work on protecting the rights of children.
JEAN-MARC HOSCHEIT,Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations Office at Geneva, expressed gratitude for the attentive ear of the Experts in the course of the meeting. Luxembourg attached great importance to the work of treaty bodies and this Committee, and the Universal Periodic Review, and would continue to engage fruitfully. The constructive feedback by the Experts would be applied in the country, together with the Committee’s concluding observations.
YASMEEN MUHAMAD SHARIFF,Committee Vice-Chairperson, was pleased to note that Luxembourg would give utmost attention to the concluding observations and thanked Luxembourg for engaging in a very fruitful and constructive dialogue.
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