Child Rights at the Human Rights Council: Issue 79

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2 March 2012, issue 79 view online | subscribe | submit information

CRINMAIL 79:

HRC 19th Session opens

In this issue:

To view this CRINMAIL online, click here

Welcome to the first of our CRINMAILs covering the 19th session of the Human Rights Council. During the second week of the session (5 - 9 March), we will be sending out daily CRINMAILs from Geneva.

    Twenty States sign new Optional Protocol

    Twenty States signed the new complaints mechanism under the Convention on the Rights of the Child during a ceremony on 28 February.

    Signatories

    Slovakia has always been a strong supporter of the initiative, even early on when few States were backing it. The other European signatories to the Optional Protocol are Slovenia, Serbia, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Finland, Spain, Luxembourg, Germany, Portugal and Montenegro. The Latin American signatories are Peru, Uruguay, Chile and Costa Rica. Meanwhile Morocco and Mali remain the only two African countries to sign so far, and the Maldives the only Asian country.

     Only the beginning

    Highlighting that this is only the beginning of the process, Lisa Myers from the NGO Group for the CRC hailed the importance of the new complaints mechanism, saying it sends "a powerful signal of States' commitment to children", adding that "for rights to have meaning, international redress must be available."

    The Optional Protocol will remain open for signature in New York for other States to sign. Next stage: ratification!

    What you can do

    For a template letter to encourage your State to ratify, prepared by the NGO Group for the CRC, click on the following language options:
    English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian.



    Round up of Week 1 

    Progress?

    The deterioating situation in Syria dominated the opening week, with the Council holding an urgent debate. Many UN Member States took the floor to express concern about the escalating situation. The Syrian representative responded by condemning the holding of the meeting, said that it was an effort to politicise the High-level Segment of the Council and stormed out of the meeting. Support for the Syrian representative was demonstrated from several States, notably Cuba and Russia who questioned the need for an urgent debate.

    Germany stressed the need for better protection of the human rights of children, reminding the Council that more than 500 children had been killed; others arbitrarily arrested and even tortured.

    The debate concluded with the adoption of a resolution (37 votes in favour, 3 against, and 3 abstentions) condemning the continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and expressing concern at the humanitarian situation. The resolution calls for the Council to remain seized of the matter and to take further action, including after the forthcoming interactive dialogue on 12 March with the commission of inquiry (read the 2nd Report) on the situation of human rights in the Syria. Read more.
     
    Children's rights on the agenda?

    During the high-level segments, where States are invited to address the Council, a number of States made reference to the new Optional Protocol mentioned above. Some States made specific references to children's rights issues, including Austria on juvenile justice and Armenia on human rights education in schools. Find out what other States were saying about children's rights here. 

      Bloggers need protection

      Further to the adoption of a resolution last September on freedom of expression and the internet, a panel discussion took place on 29 February at the Council. Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the internet had transformed the human rights movement, resulting in a 'backlash effect' by States seeking to exercise control.

      In the discussion, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, said that new standards on human rights were not needed, whilst some speakers pressed for the protection of journalists and bloggers by calling for a draft resolution and a Convention. Read about the discussions here.


      Next week at the Council

      Monday 5 March

      The Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders will present her report, which has a focus on student and youth defenders, followed by an interactive discussion.

      Wednesday 7 March

      The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children will present her report, in a joint panel with the the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, who will also present her report.

      A key debate will take place on discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation. Libya and Pakistan's lack of support for resolution 17/19 during the organisation meeting suggests that it will be a difficult debate. Read more.

      Thursday 8 March

      The Council's Annual discussion on children's rights is on the "rights of children and the administration of justice." Panels will include: worrying trends / criminalisation of children, violence against children in the judicial system, diversion and alternative measures to detention, as well as inhuman sentencing. See also CRIN's campaign for the prohibiton and elimination of inhuman sentencing of children. Read more about the day here.

      NGO Statements

      You can read statements submitted on juvenile justice issues ahead of next week's discussion, as well as other child rights related statements here.

      Side Events

        A number of side-events will take place during the week to coincide with the Annual Day, including on solitary confinement, age limits in juvenile justice and children in detention. Details available here. For a full list of children's rights related side-events click here.

        Finally, the Chairperson of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention will be meeting with NGOs on 7 March. Details available here.

        NGO Participation 

        Only NGOs with ECOSOC status can attend the discussions in Geneva. However, in addition to following CRIN's coverage on our website or through this list, you can watch the sessions live on the UN webcast. See also coverage by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) here.

        For more information on how to contribute, contact the OHCHR civil society unit at civilsociety@ohchr.org, or contact the Working Group for the HRC for more information.


        Other UN News / Events

        Two Special Procedure visits are so far scheduled for March. The Special Rapporteur (SR) on toxic waste is due to visit Marshall Islands from 13 - 16 March, and the SR on extrajudiical, summary or arbitary executions will visit India from 9 - 30 March. Find out how to engage with Special Procedures and visit our main page.

        For the latest information on all other news from the Human Rights Council, including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), read our previous HRC CRINMAIL.

        {THE LAST WORD}

        "The Optional Protocol didn't fully meet our expectations, however what we have achieved is an enormous accomplishment."

        Mr Drahoslav Stefanek of Slovakia, Former Chairperson of the Working Group on drafting the Optional Protocol.

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