The UN Child Rights Committee (CRC) has issued its findings on Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Djibouti, Greece, Iceland, Kiribati, Somalia, and Zambia, the States parties that it reviewed during its latest session.
The findings contain positive aspects of each country’s implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, its Optional Protocols, and the Committee’s primary concerns and recommendations. Some of the key highlights include:
The Committee raised concern over the lack of compulsory education in Cambodia and a draft law proposing segregated classes for children with disabilities. The Committee recommended that Cambodia provide free and compulsory primary education for all children for at least nine years and amend the draft law to guarantee the right of all children with disabilities to inclusive education. The Committee was particularly concerned about the high level of sexual exploitation and abuse of children. It urged the State party to ensure the effective investigation of and intervention in all cases of sexual exploitation and abuse of children in and outside the home, and in the digital environment, including cases involving grooming.
The Committee was gravely concerned about reports of unmarked graves found on the sites of former residential schools for Indigenous children across Canada. It urged Canada to strengthen measures to investigate the death and disappearances of thousands of girls, provide justice to families of victims and survivors, and implement the National Inquiry’s calls for justice. The Committee was also concerned that the county’s child welfare system fails to protect Indigenous children and adolescents from violence. It called on Canada to develop and implement a national strategy to prevent all forms of violence against all children and ensure a monitoring mechanism is in place.
The Committee was deeply concerned with the use of force and sexual violence by Chile’s national law enforcement police during demonstrations, including the social uprising in 2019, in which more than 1,000 children were affected. It called on Chile to carry out independent and thorough investigations to bring the perpetrators to justice and adopt comprehensive reparation programmes for child victims of the social uprising. The Committee also expressed concern about cases of deaths and abuse of children under the care of State institutions. It urged Chile to compensate past and present victims and end institutional violence in alternative residential care.
Regarding discrimination against children in Croatia, the Committee called on the State party to strengthen public education campaigns to address negative social attitudes towards children of ethnic minorities, particularly Serbian minority and Roma children, children with disabilities, refugee children, migrant and asylum-seeking children, and LGBTI children. The Committee was also concerned about insufficient healthcare services and inclusive education for children with disabilities. It requested Croatia take immediate measures to provide community or family-based healthcare to children with disabilities. It also urged Croatia to ensure that all children with disabilities access inclusive education in mainstream schools.
The Committee expressed serious concerns about the severity of sentences imposed on children who were found guilty of exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly in the July 2021 protests. It urged Cuba to review, through appeals, the heavy sentences imposed on these children and review the country’s legislation to ensure that children can effectively exercise the right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly. In addition, regarding the alternative care system in Cuba, the Committee was concerned about separating children from parents considered financially insolvent. It asked Cuba to ensure that financial and material poverty should never be the sole justification for removing a child from parental care.
To address the inadequate support for child victims of all forms of violence, the Committee recommended that Cyprus strengthen its professional capacity to provide child-friendly and comprehensive support such as trauma-focused therapy. The Committee was also concerned about asylum-seeking, refugee, and migrant children who have been separated from their families due to forced returns. It requested Cyprus to end the practice of forced returns, uphold the principle of non-refoulment in border management and ensure that children have access to asylum procedures and legal and humanitarian assistance.
The Committee was deeply concerned that child marriage and female genital mutilation remained highly prevalent in Djibouti. It urged the State party to raise awareness of the harmful traditional, cultural and religious patterns that perpetuate child marriage and take measures to end the practice of forcing victims of rape to marry their perpetrators. It also asked Djibouti to intensify efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation. The Committee was also concerned by the plight of children living on the streets. It asked the State party to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the situation of these children, reintegrate them with families, or settle them in an alternative care setting.
The Committee was seriously concerned about Greece’s policy of immigration detention of children for identification purposes. It called upon the State party to stop placing children in immigration detention and ensure the immediate transfer of asylum-seeking children and their families out of detention centers. The Committee was also concerned about the persisting discrimination against Roma children, children with disabilities, and asylum-seeking and refugee children. It asked Greece to identify measures to ensure all these children have adequate access to food, healthcare, education, and a decent standard of living.
The Committee recommended that Iceland effectively investigate all violence cases against children, including neglect and sexual abuse, in the digital environment. The Committee also expressed concerns about rising rates of depression among children and long waiting lists for seeking mental health services. It recommended that Iceland strengthen its mental health services for children and provide a sufficient number of qualified medical professionals, such as child psychologists and psychiatrists.
Concerning the high level of abuse of children, particularly in cases of domestic violence and violence in schools, the Committee recommended that Kiribati continue strengthening community-based child protection systems and establish mechanisms to ensure mandatory reporting of all cases of sexual exploitation or abuse of children. Regarding the adverse impacts of global climate change and natural disasters, such as seawater flooding and salinization of drinking water, on children’s rights, the Committee called on the State party to specifically address the impacts of climate change on children, especially on their rights to life, survival and development, health, adequate housing, and safe drinking water and sanitation.
The Committee was seriously concerned about the grave violations against children by all parties to conflicts, including abductions, rape, and recruitment and use of children. It urged Somalia to immediately cease such abuses and protect children in line with its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. The Committee noted that in some federal states of Somalia, a child is defined as anyone aged below 15. It recommended that Somalia amend its legislation to ensure that all laws and regulations define a child as a person under 18 years of age and prohibit marriage with a boy or a girl under 18.
In response to Zambia’s legislation that recognizes the customary marriages of children after they reach puberty, the Committee urged the State party to amend its Marriage Act in compliance with the provisions under the Constitution and remove all exceptions that allow the marriage of anyone under 18 years of age. In addition, the Committee was concerned that the minimum age of criminal responsibility is still set at eight years old, and children are not guaranteed free legal representation in courts. The Committee called upon the State party to expedite the functioning of its Children’s Courts/Family Courts, promptly raise the legal age of criminal responsibility to at least 14, and provide independent legal aid to children.
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 the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. The Convention to date has 196 States parties. The Committee comprises 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their capacity and not as representatives of States parties.