GENEVA (12 October 2022) — Finland’s failure to repatriate Finnish children who have been held in Syrian camps in life-threatening conditions for years violated their right to life, as well as their right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment, the UN Child Rights Committee has found.
The UN Child Rights Committee (CRC) published its Decision today after considering a case filed on behalf of six Finnish children currently being held in the Al-Hol camp in the northeast of the Syrian Arab Republic, which is under the control of Syrian Democratic Forces. The children were born in the Syrian Arab Republic and their parents have allegedly collaborated with Da’esh, the ISIL terrorist group.
Since the relatives took their case to the Committee in 2019, three of the children could leave the Al-Hol camp on their own initiative with their mother and eventually arrived in Finland. The remaining three child victims, currently between five and six years old, are still detained in closed camps in a war-like zone.
The Committee found that Finland has the responsibility and power to protect the Finnish children in the Syrian camps against an imminent risk to their lives by taking action to repatriate them.
The Committee further considered that the prolonged detention of child victims in life-threatening conditions amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.
The Committee urged Finland to take urgent action to repatriate the remaining three child victims. In the interim, it asked Finland to take additional measures to mitigate the risks to life, survival and development of the child victims while they remain in northeast Syria.
This is the second time the Committee has examined the situation of children in refugee camps in northern Syria. The Committee previously found violations of the child rights Convention in three cases filed against France.
“The situation of children in the camps has been widely reported as inhuman, lacking basic necessities including water, food and health care, and facing an imminent risk of death,” said Committee member Ann Skelton. “We call on Finland to take immediate and decisive action to preserve the lives of these children, and to bring them home to their families.”
*Article 3 of the Convention specifies, “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”
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The Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors States parties' adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols on involvement of children in armed conflict, and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Convention to date has 196 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure (OPIC-CRC) allows the Committee to receive and examine complaints by individuals or groups of individuals claiming to be victims of a violation of the rights of the child by States that have ratified the Optional Protocol. To date, 50 States have ratified or acceded to the OPIC-CRC. The Committee’s views and decisions on individual communications are an independent assessment of States’ compliance with their human rights obligations under the Convention and its two substantive optional protocols.