13 May 2008 - CRINMAIL 982




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SOUTH AFRICA: Children's rights in criminal justice system neglected


[PRETORIA, 13 May 2008] - The criminal justice system needs to operate in a way that takes account of children’s interests, a Pretoria High Court judge said in South Africa this week.

Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann declared unconstitutional Section 170A(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act, and several subsections of the Act which deal with children and the manner in which they testify in courts, and referred the matter to the Constitutional Court.

The judge, who presided in two child rape cases referred to the High Court for sentencing, ordered a wide-ranging investigation, and invited a wide range of government departments and children’s rights organisations to make submissions to him on how child crime victims and witnesses could be better protected.

“Children are vulnerable - the younger, the more so. This is especially true when a child is the complainant or a witness in a criminal trial, he said.

“The criminal procedure and the courts should administer the criminal justice system in such a fashion that children who are caught up in its workings are protected from further trauma and are treated with proper respect for their dignity and their unique status as young human beings.”

The judge stressed that the incidence of child rape and sexual assault upon minors had reached “horrific proportions” and that there was an exceptionally low conviction rate in such cases.

Designed by adults, for adults

He said the entire legal system was designed by adults for adults, including courts and court procedures.

In terms of the judge’s ruling, the Criminal Procedure Act is to be amended to allow all children under 18 - whether they are complainants or witnesses in a criminal trial - as well as children under the mental age of 18 - to testify through intermediaries.

If not, the court would have to give good reasons why this was not done.

Other sections that were struck down deal with 'in camera' proceedings.

The stipulation that witnesses had to testify under oath was also struck down as many children did not understand this concept, or even the difference between a lie and the truth.

Criminal trials in which children are involved as complainants or witnesses must be given priority in the investigative and prosecution phases.

These children also had a right to be assisted by an intermediary.

They should also make use of electronic devices such as closed circuit television where resources permitted.

And court officials should have adequate expertise to deal with children as witnesses or complainants.

In practice, this ruling may result in the creation of specialist courts for the prosecution of offences of a sexual nature.

[Source: The Citizen, South Africa]

Further information



BANGLADESH: Govt to investigate issue of children in conflict with law [news]

[13 May 2008] - Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed is set to get the ball rolling on necessary legal reforms to help children who come in conflict with the law, sources said.

The chief adviser is holding a meeting where secretaries of state for women and children affairs, social welfare, home affairs and and law, justice and parliamentary affairs have been asked to offer specific recommendations and brief him on the development of legal reforms.

Bangladesh ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 which means the country is under an obligation to review and harmonise its legislation with international standards.

But more than 18 years after ratification (what is this?), the country has yet to start the process of legal reform, said child rights activists.

Different countries including several South Asian countries have already adopted new separate laws to deal with children in conflict with the law, and 69 countries [according to sources] have so far adopted children's code in line with the UN Convention.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child that monitors the implementation of the Convention worldwide has repeatedly asked Bangladesh to carry out the legal reforms.

In its periodic report in 2003, the Committee expressed concern on the unclear status of the Convention in the domestic legal framework of Bangladesh and its insufficient steps to bring existing legislations to full conformity with the Convention.

Studies have identified a number of gaps in the national legal framework concerning children's rights in Bangladesh, particularly in the administration of juvenile justice.

[Source: Daily Star, Bangladesh]

Further information



HEALTH: Sexuality and life skills: Participatory practices on sexual and reproductive health with young people [publication]


This toolkit is written for anyone who wants to facilitate participatory learning activities with young people to equip them with the knowledge, positive attitudes and skills to grow up and enjoy sexual and reproductive health and well-being. This includes peer educators and leaders, outreach workers, teachers, community workers and others.

Further information

For more information, contact:
International HIV/AIDS Alliance
Queensberry House, 104–106 Queens Road, Brighton BN1 3XF
Tel: + 44 1273 718 900; Fax: + 44 1273 718 901
Email: [email protected]



CHILD LABOUR: Invitation to comment on paper [publication]


The Working Document is ''Child Labour and Corporate Social Responsibility - What should the European Union do?''. This paper is written on behalf of the campaign ''Stop Child labour - School is the best place to work''.

The authors are inviting you to comment on this Working Paper before the 2nd of June. They will then finalise and publish it on the World Day Against Child Labour on 12 June.

The paper will also be discussed this week in Brussels with Members of the European Parliament, officials of the European Commission and other interested parties.

This Working Paper is a follow-up of ''Out of the work and Into School - Action Plan for Companies to Companies to Combat Child Labour'' which was launched in New Delhi last February at an international conference of child rights organisers and campaigners. See:  

Further information

For more information, contact:
Stop Child Labour: School is the Best Place to Work
Gerard Oonk
Email: [email protected]
Tel: + 31 30 2321340



COUNCIL OF EUROPE: Raise your hand against smacking! [event]

Date: 15 June 2008
Location: Zagreb, Croatia

The Council of Europe is launching its Europe-wide initiative against corporal punishment of children. This event is organised by the programme 'Building a Europe for and with Children'.


The kick off of "Raise your hand against smacking", the Council of Europe initiative against all corporal punishment of children.

When and where?
15 June 2008 in Croatia, at an exceptional venue, the Zagreb Puppet Theatre

Who's coming?
High-level representatives of governments and international organisations, parliamentarians, local authorities, celebrities, ombudspersons, young people, families with children, NGOs, and child network professionals.

The aim?
To achieve full prohibition of corporal punishment of children, to promote positive parenting and to raise awareness of children's rights throughout Europe.

How to participate?

Download the attachment available here:

Further information

Building a Europe for and with children
DG III- Social Cohesion / Council of Europe
B Building - Office B137, F - 67075 Strasbourg Cedex
Tel: +33 3 88 41 22 62
Email: [email protected]



EMPLOYMENT: International Social Service - War Child

  • International Social Service - Children's Rights Specialist (Geneva, Switzerland)

The General Secretariat of International Social Service (Geneva) is looking for a Children’s Rights Specialist, in order to support it in the delivery of the services provided to its network and funders The position involves: the publication of a Monthly Review on developments in child protection and adoption; socio-legal research and analysis offering expertise on complex child protection and adoption issues; capacity-building activities and social reform projects, etc.

As the position is located in Geneva and has to be replaced quickly, candidates must fulfil the necessary requirements to work in Switzerland (Swiss nationality, B or C permit, EU citizenship). For more information, visit:

To apply for this position, send your CV, with a covering letter, and the names of two persons of reference to [email protected]  

Closing date: 20 May 2008

  • War Child

War Child has the following vacancies:

Programme Areas:
- Operations Support Manager in Afghanistan
- Field Location Manager in Uganda

You can read the full vacancy texts at their website (vacancies abroad):  

- Advocacy and Child Protection Specialist
- Planning, monmitoring and Evaluation specialist with focus on education and community development (5-6 months)
- Institutional Fundraising Specialist (3 months)

You can read the full vacancy texts at their website (vacatures hoofdkantoor):  

  • Child-to-Child Trust

The Child-to-Child Trust is seeking a Projects Coordinator for an Early Childhood School Readiness Programme, on contract, starting as soon as possible and ending December 2009. Established in 1979 Child-to-Child is an international network promoting children's participation in health and development.

A full job description is available on the Child-to-Child Trust website An attractive salary commensurate with the position is offered

Closing date: 30 May 2008

Interviews: Early/Mid June

How to apply: If you are interested in being considered for this position email your CV with a covering letter describing why you are suitable for this role to Dr. Tashmin Khamis, Director, Child-to-Child Trust at [email protected]


**FROM THE FRONTLINE** Nevena Vučković Šahović [interview]

Nevena Vučković Šahović, 52, of Serbia, is a human rights lawyer and member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. She teaches international law and has held a number of positions including President of the Child Rights Centre in Belgrade, where she lives, and member of the executive board of the International Service for Human Rights.

For her unpaid work at the Committee, Nevena travels to Geneva for one month, three times a year. Two weeks are devoted to the current session, and one to preparing for the next session. January 2009 will be Nevena’s last session at the Committee before a new member is appointed.

I am looking forward to the end of my time at the Committee
. It has been such a good experience, and very rewarding. I have learned a lot and been able to contribute to an important process. But it is also a lot of work – I have been on eight trips between the last two sessions for Committee-related work – and it is also time for a change and to introduce someone different. I am looking forward to devoting more time to my students.

We are doing an injustice to children by denying them access to independent complaints procedure. One government said “why do it now? Can’t we wait for ten years?” But how can we deny justice for another ten years? There are a number of important arguments in favour of the mechanism. Firstly, there should be no distinction between children and other human beings – if adults have rights and have access to a complaints procedure then so should children.

Although the procedure is not judicial it makes such a difference. There is more strength in the response to the complaint than to the Concluding Observations, which States often do not respond to and take a long time to implement. The Committee has made no final decision on endorsing the proposal, although they will devote half a day to the discussion at the next session and we will have a better idea then. 

It all depends on the States. Whatever the Committee decides it has little relevance compared to them, so we have to persuade them. If we have an Optional Protocol for the mechanism, the question is whether we have a separate committee for dealing with the complaints or whether the present Committee takes on the work. So, of course, it is a question of budget.

How could the work of the Committee be improved? The Committee’s work is underresourced. The budget covers the bare necessities. Since we are not paid, we are inhibited in terms of how much we can commit ourselves. We have to make an arrangement with our home life, and some members can only come to the session for two weeks. There needs to be a balance between our needs as members and the support of the UN and wider international system.

The Committee is composed of members elected by their governments, so the process is questionable as it relies on bargaining and politics – you cannot be certain that governments are electing the best people rather than serving their own interests. Although we are lucky with the people we have, elections shouldn’t feel like a risk for us.

We are rather old. While you should not be dumped on the rubbish heap when you are 50, it would be better to have some younger members. Although it often difficult as it is retired people who can commit the time. My background is in academia and civil society, and so I would sometimes like to move faster than we are able

We maintain good links with Montenegro in our work, and they have sought our expertise with their capacity building. The problem in Serbia is the terrible political situation. Half the country is going towards fascism, and the other half is more progressive and want to join the EU. Elections are next week and it is very close, with a slight advantage to the dark side. This could impede the implementation of lots of human rights standards [the Nationalists have since lost the election, in a surprise result].

Kosovo is like a black hole. No one reports on children, specifically Albanian children there. Albanian children are invisible to the international community and this needs to change. There are many cross-border problems such as drugs and trafficking, but all this will not be addressed if there is conflict because of fascists. There will be an impact for the whole of the Balklans. NOTE

An issue which needs more attention is education. There are many commitments but not much movement, and it is the quality of education that is ignored. Although there is a lot about access, access is futile if the education is poor or dogmatic. We have not moved one step. There needs to be human rights education at universities and in schools.

My advice to NGOs is not to give up! They need to keep their eyes open to learn about child rights and human rights issues. Read!

The CRC has made a big difference. You just need to look at the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. Even States such as Myanmar and North Korea have changed some of their legislation after ratification. However, implementation and monitoring, as well as training and education, of the Convention is still weak. There are not enough people trained at a high level in child rights.


For more information, contact:
Child Rights Information Network
1 St John's Lane, London EC1M 4AR
Tel: + 44 20 7012 6866 or 67; Fax: + 44 020 7012 6899
Email: [email protected]




: Schooling is key following Cyclone Nargis (13 May 2008)

China: Children main victims of quake (13 May 2008)

Nigeria: Teenage trafficking on the rise in northern areas (12 May 2008)

Burkina Faso: Fresh approach to street children (9 May 2008)


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