REGIONAL MECHANISMS: Children's rights regional round-up

States which violate or fail to protect children’s rights can be held to account at a national, regional or international level. Complaints can be brought before regional human rights mechanisms if the complainant has exhausted all avenues available to them in the domestic courts or have been prevented from seeking justice.

Regional mechanisms have so far been established for Africa, Southeast Asia, the Americas and the Caribbean, and Europe*.

Regional human rights systems were developed to reflect regional values and offer a more specific framework than the UN system.

The regional systems provide varying degrees of protection for child rights: some have specific instruments and mechanisms to challenge breaches of child rights; others rely on a monitoring body to interpret how a particular treaty applies to child rights. Where there are gaps in the protection of rights, these regional systems may draw on the UN or other regional systems to interpret how the provisions of human rights instruments apply to children.

This CRINMAIL reports on children's rights in the latest sessions of these regional systems.

Find out more about how each of these mechanisms works in our “Guide to Child Rights Mechanisms”.

Children's rights in the Americas

The Inter-American Commission staged its 140th session from 20 October to 5 November 2010.

During the session, the Commission held 52 hearings on persistent human rights violations in the region, 28 working meetings and approved 66 reports on individual cases and petitions.

Hearings concerning children's rights presented at the recent session revealed widespread discrimination and violence against children in the Americas, particularly in State and private institutions. In addition, violations of children's rights featured strongly in a number of hearings on other human rights issues.

Violence in private

As part of its global campaign to end the institutionalisation of children, Disability Rights International (DRI) presented the results of research documenting violations of the rights of children with disabilities throughout the Americas.

Their findings revealed that:

- In Mexico, there is virtually no oversight of private institutions for children without parental care. A number of children have disappeared from public record after entering such institutions. According to DRI, preliminary evidence suggests some of these children could be the victims of trafficking.

In its recommendations  to Mexico in 2006, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the lack of information recorded about children separated from their parents, the large number of children living in private institutions and the lack of State oversight of these institutions.

The Committee recommended that “the State party strengthen existing measures to prevent separation of children from their families, and take effective measures to assess the number and situation of children living in institutions, including in those institutions managed by the private sector. In particular, the Committee recommends that the State party establish regulations based on the rights of the child and adopt a programme to strengthen and increase alternative care opportunities for children including, inter alia, by introducing effective legislation, reinforcing existing structures such as the extended family, improving training of staff and allocating increased resources to relevant bodies. The State party is encouraged to seek technical assistance in this regard from, among others, UNICEF and the Inter-American Children’s Institute.”

For more on children vanishing from private institutions, read reports from Mexico's national children's rights network highlighting the case of 11 children who went missing from an institution called 'Casitas del Sur'. Go here.

– In the United States, children with autism and other mental disabilities living at a residential school in Massachusetts are being given electric shocks as a form of “behaviour modification”. Read more on DRI's report: “Torture Not Treatment - Electric-shock and long-term restraint on children and adults with disabilities at the Judge Rotenburg Center”.

– In Uruguay and Paraguay, children with autism are being held in cages. In a further development, The World Organisation against Torture has recently expressed alarm over plans to house children deprived of their liberty in container-like cells. More here.

Enduring State abuse

United States: The Commission heard about the continuing effects of Native American children compelled by US law to attend residential schools run or controlled by the State, where they were subjected to a range of abuse.

The Boarding Schools Healing Project and others presented evidence that during the 19th and 20th centuries, American Indian and Alaska Native children were forcibly abducted from their homes to attend Christian boarding schools as a matter of United States government policy. Read more here.  

Reign in terror

In a hearing on Chile, brought by the Human Rights Clinic of Diego Portales University, the Commission heard claims that anti-terrorism legislation was being applied to people from the Mapuche indigenous group participating in social protests.

Paulo Pinheiro, the Commission's Rapporteur on Children's Rights, sent letters to the State of Chile earlier this year requesting information on the cases of members of the Mapuche community in detention who were prosecuted under this legislation for acts committed when they were children.

In April, the organisation Mapuche Meli Wixan Mapu, issued a statement against the detention of two Mapuche school children and the search for another 14-year-old child for alleged terrorist acts. They condemned the calls by some government ministries to apply the maximum sentence of 10 years' imprisonment for a 17-year-old, saying they were in clear violation of children's rights. Read the statement (in Spanish).

The Rapporteur's office also sent letters to Honduras and Peru to request information on violence against children in those countries.

In limbo

Haiti: A national human rights group told the Commission that since January's earthquake struck, the human rights situation in the country has further unravelled, particularly in the Haitian-Dominican Republic border area.

Le Regroupement des Citoyens pour la Protection des Droits Humains (RECIPRODH) focused its report on the area of Ouanaminthe, which is located in the border region in the north-east of the country. Many children from both Haiti and the Dominican Republic travel to Ouanaminthe on market days to sell their wares. Acts of violence have reportedly increased in the aftermath of the earthquake, partly as a result the exodus from the country's capital, Port-au-Prince, to provinces such as Ouanaminthe.

RECIPRODH detailed a number of specific cases of violence against children in Ouanaminthe, particularly against girls, including trafficking, child prostitution and kidnappings, saying that the perpetrators had not been brought to justice. RECIPRODH explained that the country's justice system is slow, ineffective and corrupt, and that relations between the police and judiciary were frayed. It urged the Commission to make recommendations to the State to improve the children's rights situation in Haiti in general and the north of the country in particular. Download the report in French.

Dominican Republic: Thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent who live and work in the Dominican Republic are being arbitrarily denied the right to nationality, the Commission heard. Without proof of identity, thousands of children are unable to access a host of other rights including education, health care, employment, and social services.

The State has refused to issue identity documents to people whose nationality it had formerly recognised under the country's jus soli citizenship regime on the pretext that their parents were not residents when their births were recorded.

This new criterion was introduced into Dominican legislation by the Supreme Court in December 2005 and is now being applied retroactively, according to the five petitioners: the Red de Encuentro Dominico Haitiano Jacques Viau, el Movimiento de Mujeres Dominico-Haitianas (MUDHA), Global Rights, the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSI) and the Centre for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).

The Dominican State rejected all arguments raised in the hearing by the petitioners and denied the existence of discriminatory practices in the country, saying they were in line with the Court decision and the 2010 Constitution.

The Commission's President, Felipe González, pointed out that the existence of an internal law did not justify the State's failure to comply with its international human rights obligations. The Commission must now decide whether the new Constitution contravenes the American Convention on Human Rights. The petitioners invited the Commission to visit the country to investigate and to urge the State to grant nationality to all those who were born on Dominican soil prior to the new Constitution in January 2010 in accordance with international standards. Download the hearing report. Read our CRINMAIL edition on children's rights and statelessness.

Running the gauntlet

The Commission highlighted the important contributions of those participating in the sessions as victims or petitioners¸ condemning attempts to discredit some individuals on return to their own countries.

Further, the Commission reiterated its request to the US government to grant visas to individuals participating in the Commission's work. The statement was made after a hearing on the human rights situation of women in camps for internally displaced persons in Haiti was cancelled because the petitioners were denied visas.


Four vacancies are coming up on the Inter-American Commission for 2012-2015. The new Commissioners will be elected at the 41st session of the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS) which will be held in El Salvador in June 2011.

Members of the Commission serve four years and may be re-elected once.

Paraguay has nominated Rosa María Ortiz, currently a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Read more in our campaign for transparency in the appointment processes of the top jobs in children's rights. 

2011 session schedule

Session 141: 21 March – 1 April. The deadline for submitting requests for hearings and working meetings is 29 January 2011.

Session 142: 18-22 July. This session will not include any hearings or working meetings.

Session 143: 19 October - 4 November. The deadline for submitting requests for hearings and working meetings is 29 August 2011.

Read the full list of hearings - listen to audio recordings of the session – Read the Commission's full press release.  

Laying the ground work

Africa: The new members of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child undertook their induction last week. They also elected a new bureau: Chairperson: Ms Agnès Kaboré (Burkina Faso)
1st Vice Chairperson: Mr Cyprien Adebayo Yanclo (Benin)
2nd Vice Chairperson: Dr Benyam Dawit Mezmur (Ethiopia)
3rd Vice Chairperson: Ms Faté ma Delladj-Sebaa (Algeria)

Rapporteur: Mr Clement Julius Mashamba (Tanzania)

They are now receiving alternative reports from NGOs and reviewing the Committee's strategy and five year Plan of Action.

A new African human rights caselaw database has been developed by the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa in partnership with HURIDOCs. Access the site here.

Europe: In October, a regional meeting of children's rights coalitions was staged at the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre in Florence. During the meeting, participants shared ideas about how to improve regional networking, make the most of UN and regional human rights mechanisms, and tackle key challenges for children's rights in Europe. An outcome document will be available shortly. The meeting, which was attended by two European members of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, was organised by Save the Children Italy and the Gruppo di Lavoro per la Convenzione sui diritti dell'infanzia e dell'adolescenza.

The Council of Europe will be launching an awareness-raising campaign in Rome (Italy) on 29 November, the aim being to eliminate sexual violence against children. One of the principal objectives will be to draw public attention to the extent of the sexual abuses perpetrated by trusted individuals (within the home, at school or in the context of extracurricular activities). The campaign will also be an opportunity to break the silence surrounding sexual abuse and to educate children and professionals so as to prevent all forms of sexual violence as far as possible. More here.

Southeast Asia
: “The honeymoon is over”

A new report reviews the performance of ASEAN's Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). The report, written by Solidarity for Asian People's Advocacy Task Force on Asean and Human Rights, examines the regional body's structure and transparency, how it measures up to its mandate, and the degree to which it consults (or not!) with civil society organsations.

The mechanism, which includes a Women and Children's Commission, comes under fire for the lack of transparency in how its members are selected: the appointment process is shrouded in secrecy and vacancies have not been publicly advertised in any ASEAN countries bar Thailand and Indonesia.

The body was also slammed for failing to consult with civil society organisations by Atnike Nova Sigiro, Forum-Asia's manager of ASEAN advocacy, while Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, told the Inter-Press service “It is clear that the honeymoon between AICHR and the civil society groups is over.”

Download the report: “Hiding Behind its Limits: A performance report on the first year of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights”. Download the report.

See CRIN's campaign for transparency in appointment processes for the top jobs in children's right 


    Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.