“Since Iran believes that no one is really going to do anything about it, there is no reason to be concerned. The reality is, that since the Convention is an international treaty, other nations could enforce its provisions through litigation….The concept of enforcing treaties in courts of competent jurisdiction is relatively new to the international arena and thus there is little precedence for its implementation.”
By: D.W. DukePart I Part II Part III: Enforcement Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child
The rights of children began to achieve international recognition in the early part of the 20th Century. The first text addressing the rights of children in international law was adopted in 1924 when the League of Nations passed a resolution endorsing the Declaration of the Rights of the Child that was first promoted in 1923 as the NGO “Save the Children” campaign. This became known as the “Declaration of Geneva.” In 1948 it formed the basis for the Declaration adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations and in 1959 became the Declaration of the Rights of the
Child. The by-product of this agenda to protect the rights of children ultimately became the United Nations “Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Widely heralded as an extraordinary product of human rights enthusiasts, the Convention received only a lukewarm reception in the United States. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/k2crc.htm was adopted by the General Assembly on November 20, 1989 and went into effect on September 2, 1990. As of this date only two nations of the world have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Those nations are the United States and Somalia.
By signing the Convention, the signatory nations agree to afford certain rights to minors regardless of the “child’s or his parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property disability, birth or other status.” See Article 2(1). A minor is a person under the age of 18 years unless pursuant to the law applicable to that child majority is attained earlier. See Article 1. (An example of a law applicable to the rights of a child wherein one younger than 18 would be regarded as an adult, might be a law which allows minors to marry. That law does not, however, transform that minor into an adult for all purposes such as the application of the death penatly.) The Convention requires that all actions taken with respect to children must be in the “best interests of the child.” The Convention is designed to prevent the exploitation of children, child selling and trafficking and child abuse. The Convention also prohibits the recruitment of children into the military prior to age of 15 years.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) www.ohchr.org/english/bod…/index.htm established by Article 43(1) of the Convention, is responsible to monitor the efforts taken by the various states to comply with the provisions of the Convention. The Committee is made up of ten members of high moral standing and competence in the “field covered by this Convention.” The CRC reviews the reports submitted by the States concerning the steps they have taken to comply with the Convention. The CRC has no power to receive or review complaints from individuals. The members of the Committee are selected by secret ballot from a list of persons nominated by the States. Each State may nominate one person from among its own nationals.
There have been two Optional Protocols to the “Convention on the Rights of the Child.” The first Optional Protocol addresses the recruitment and involvement of children in the armed forces. Under its provisions States are required to take all reasonable steps to assure that children under the age of 18 do not participate in armed conflict. The goal is to see the minimum age of participation in military forces raised to 18 years.
The second Optional Protocol went into effect on January 18, 2002 and concerns child pornography, child prostitution and child trafficking. This protocol requires that each State take steps to assure that these acts are criminalized whether occurring within its borders or outside of its borders. States are required to prosecute offenders found within its territories. The Protocol also established an enforcement mechanism and a procedure for the confiscation of materials and assets used in the crime.
As with the other treaties that have been signed concerning the issue of human rights, enforcement up to the present date has been largely limited to the voluntary cooperation of the member nations. This, in large part is the reason such nations as Iran continue to violate the provisions of the “Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Since Iran believes that no one is really going to do anything about it, there is no reason to be concerned. The reality is, that since the Convention is an international treaty, other nations could enforce its provisions through litigation or even through the use of military force. The concept of enforcing treaties in courts of competent jurisdiction is relatively new to the international arena and thus there is little precedence for its implementation. Thus, for the most part, at present, we are thrown back onto the voluntary cooperation of each nation in assuring that the rights of children are protected.
Although there is no specific complaint procedure for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, there are procedures for bringing individual complaints under four of the UN treaties. Here is a link to a page of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which explains the complaint process: www.ohchr.org/english/bod…ncications
In addition, there are procedures for bringing complaints on matters where an individual complaint procedure is not available under a particular treaty. These include the newly established Human Rights Council www.ohchr.org/english/bod…/index.htm with its new complaint procedures including the 1503 procedure www.ohchr.org/english/bod…laints.htm
While these complaint mechanisms are a step in the right direction, it remains to be seen how effective these processes will be in dealing with specific violations. Several years ago I lodged a 1503 complaint which received no response whatsoever with the exception of acknowledgement of receipt so I have not been overly optimistic about the procedure. Nonetheless, the 1503 procedure was fairly new at that time which could account for the apparent nonresponsiveness. It may be that SCE Campaign should begin the process of lodging 1503 complaints in cases involving violations of the “Convention on the Rights of the Child.” If nothing else, it would keep this issue in the presence of the Office of the High Commissioner.
Partial List of References:
1. United Nations Charter
2. United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
3. United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
4. United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
5. The First Optional Protocol on the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
6. The Second Optional Protocol on the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
7. The United Nations International Covention on the Rights of the Child
8. J. Robinson, Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary (1946)
9. L. Sohn & T. Buergenthal, International Protection of Human Rights 556 (1973) and L. Henkin The Age of Rights 51 (1990)
10. D. McGoldrick, The Human Rights Committee: Its Role in the Development of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 300 (1994)
11. International Human Rights, 3d edition, Buergenthal,Shelton and Stewart, (2002) West Publishing Company
12. International Human Rights in Context, 2d edition, Steiner and Alston, (2000) Oxford University Press