Children given right to bring complaints before UN Committee

A new complaints mechanism under the UN Convention on Rights of Child is about to take effect. On 14 January 2014, Costa Rica became the tenth state to ratify the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure, meaning that three months’ time, on 14 April 2014, the complaints mechanism will come into force.

The Third Optional Protocol enables individual children or groups of children to submit complaints regarding specific violations of their rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child where they have not been able to obtain a remedy at a national level.

Committee on the Rights of the Child Chair Kirsten Sandberg has commented that “We will have child-sensitive procedures and also safeguards to ensure the child is not being manipulated or used to make the complaint. And at all times we will work for the rights of the child and take that child’s views into account”. The Committee may ask the State to take interim measures to protect the child or the group of children.

After examining a communication, the Committee will provide its views on the communication and will issue recommendations if the State concerned is found to have violated the Convention. The State party must respond within six months.

Before the adoption of the Third Optional Protocol, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was the only significant international human rights treaty to lack a communications procedure – despite its near universal ratification (all countries have ratified the Convention except Somalia, South Sudan and the United States).

Costa Rica joins Albania, Bolivia, Gabon, Germany, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Thailand as parties to the Third Optional Protocol. Australia is yet to sign or ratify the complaints mechanism. The HRLC has previously made a submission to the Australian Government strongly encouraging Australia to sign and expeditiously ratify the Third Optional Protocol: