The week in children's rights - 1568

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08 February 2018 subscribe | subscribe | submit information
  • In this issue:

    CRC finds first violation under complaints procedure

    Latest news and reports

    - Sexual abuse and accountability
    - Violence
    - Toxics and the environment
    - Family separation

    Upcoming events

    Employment

    CRC finds first violation under complaints procedure

    The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has published its first decision under its complaint mechanism finding a State responsible for violating a child’s rights. The case revolved around a mother and daughter who had been denied asylum in Denmark and filed a complaint to the CRC, arguing that if they were deported to Somalia, the girl would be at risk of female genital mutilation. The CRC found that deporting the mother and daughter would violate the girl’s right to be protected from violence and ruled that Denmark had failed to consider the best interests of the child. The complaints mechanism came into force in 2014, but this is the first published decision to be declared admissible and to hold a State accountable for a children’s rights violation. There are currently 33 complaints pending before the CRC involving six States. The majority of the cases relate to immigration proceedings, with 17 focusing on the use of X-rays to attempt to determine the age of unaccompanied children in Spain. For more information about how the CRC’s complaints mechanism works, read CRIN’s guide on the subject.
     

    LATEST NEWS AND REPORTS

     
    Sexual abuse and accountability

    Survivors of historic sexual abuse in state care in New Zealand may have their cases investigated, after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that a royal commission of inquiry on the issue will be set up. The move to open fresh investigations follows similar inquiries in Australia and the UK, and the recommendations of the United Nations. Ardern said the inquiry would last for at least her entire term in office, and will be tasked with investigating historic abuse of children and adults in state-run institutions between 1950 and 1999, including in youth detention centres, psychiatric hospitals and orphanages. Tracey Martin, New Zealand’s minister for children, said the government would be open-minded about broadening the scope of the inquiry if the commission’s initial inquiries found evidence to warrant this. There are up to 5,000 children in state care in New Zealand at any one time, with 61 percent of those from last year being of Māori descent. More than 100,000 children and adults were held in state institutions between the 1950s and 1990s, and many suffered serious sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

    The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Italy failed to protect a drug-dependent victim of a child sexual exploitation ring. The case concerned a person who, as a child suffering from alcohol and drug addiction, had been the victim of sexual exploitation and gang rape. She complained that the Italian authorities had not taken all the necessary steps to protect her, considering her needs as a child victim. In particular, the court found that the authorities had not acted with the necessary diligence and had not taken all reasonable measures in good time to prevent the abuses the child suffered. Judges ruled that although the criminal courts had acted promptly, the country’s youth court and social services had not taken any immediate protective measures, even though they had known that the girl, aged 15 at the time of the crimes, was vulnerable and that proceedings concerning her sexual exploitation and an investigation into the gang rape were ongoing.
     

    Violence


    The coalition led by Saudi Arabia is responsible for the deaths of scores of children since last summer according to a United Nations report. The confidential report by the office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict details how 68 children were killed and 36 others were wounded between July and September 2017 during the coalition's war in Yemen. The report found there were at least 20 coalition raids every day during the reporting period - some targeting schools and homes. Saudi Arabia, together with several other Arab nations, launched a military campaign in 2015 aimed at rolling back advances made by Houthi forces after they overran much of the country, including the capital, Sanaa, in 2014. The report also notes that the armed group was responsible for the deaths of 18 children in the same period, with 29 wounded by attacks orchestrated by their forces. As well as violent deaths, children across Yemen are also dying from starvation and preventable diseases, largely as a result of the destruction of hospitals and the deliberate blockade on food and medical supplies previously imposed by the coalition.

    Iranian authorities have reportedly executed a young man convicted of murder who was 15 years old at the time of the crime and a young woman who allegedly murdered her husband when she was 17. Amnesty International reports that 22-year-old Ali Kazemi was hanged in a prison in Bushehr province without any notice being given to his lawyer. On the same day, in Nowshahr prison in northern Iran, authorities executed Mahboubeh Mofidi. Mofidi, who was married when she was 13, was sentenced for the murder of her husband in 2014. These executions came less than a month after Iran executed another man, Amirhossein Pourjafar, who was under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged crime. Between 2005 and 2018, as many as 87 people convicted for crimes that occurred when they were under the age of 18 were executed, including four in 2017 and three so far in 2018, with at least 80 individuals still on death row in Iran for crimes that took place when they were children. Many international organisations and UN experts have condemned the ongoing juvenile executions in Iran, which are strictly prohibited by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which Iran has ratified.

    The African Union (AU) has rebuked Mauritania for failing to adequately punish child slavery. The verdict came after two formerly enslaved brothers appealed to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), claiming that the perpetrator’s sentence and the compensation they received were not adequate considering the 11 years of enslavement they both endured. In its ruling, the ACERWC said the country failed to adequately enforce its anti-slavery laws, did not duly compensate two boys, and handed out lenient sentences to a family of slave "owners". The ruling also stated that authorities had failed to fully investigate or prevent cases of slavery, creating a culture of impunity. The two boys were born into slavery and were made to work seven days a week, given leftovers to eat, and faced punishments. After they escaped in 2011, the man who enslaved them was arrested, sentenced to two years in prison, and ordered to pay a fine of roughly US$3,800, later being released from jail pending an appeal. ACERWC also called for the boys to be enrolled in school, given birth certificates and identity cards, and provided psychosocial support in order to rehabilitate them from the physical and mental abuse they endured.
     

    Toxics and the environment


    The Colombian government is being sued by a group of young people for allegedly failing to protect their right to a healthy environment because of deforestation, in what campaigners say is the first such action in Latin America. The lawsuit, filed at a Bogotá court, alleges the government’s failure to stem rising deforestation in Colombia puts their future in jeopardy and violates their constitutional rights to a healthy environment, life, food and water. “Deforestation is threatening the fundamental rights of those of us who are young today and will face the impacts of climate change the rest of our lives,” the 25 plaintiffs, whose ages range from seven to 26, said in a joint statement. It is the first climate change litigation in Latin America, according to the Bogotá-based rights group, Dejusticia, which is supporting the plaintiffs’ case. Deforestation in Colombia’s Amazon region rose 23 percent and 44 percent across the country from 2015 to 2016.

    Increasing numbers of people working in agriculture are being exposed to dangerous pesticides, with the poorest and most vulnerable people, particularly children, suffering disproportionately, according to a new UNICEF study. The research found that the agricultural sector accounted for 71 percent of all child labour in 2016, exposing 108 million children to frequently hazardous working conditions, including direct contact with pesticides. According to the study, a lack of awareness, poor management practices and incorrect disposal exacerbate children’s pesticide exposure. Their exposure can also happen during gestation, through their mother’s breast milk, and while labouring in the fields, UNICEF notes.

     

    Family separation


    Social services in England are taking children from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) families into state care at a disproportionately high rate, according to a new study. Government figures show that while the overall number of children in care has increased by an average of 19 percent since 2009, the number of Gypsy or Roma children removed from their families has surged by 933 percent and those of Travellers of Irish heritage by 400 percent. The study, conducted by the European Roma Rights Centre and the University of Salford, found evidence of institutional prejudice against GRT families. More than half of the 137 child protection professionals who took part in the research said they believed that GRT children are more at risk of harm than any other child, with many referring to “family culture” as the problem. One social worker said their work with GRT families is “characterised by professional suspicion and assumptions”, with the decision to remove a child sometimes being based on assumed rather than proven risk. The study’s authors also pointed to the impact of austerity and underfunding on GRT families, explaining that social workers have “enormous pressure to assess risk” on an impossibly short deadline, often escalating cases to child protection teams without sufficient evidence that the child is really at risk to avoid falling behind on other cases.

    Canada is failing to implement a legally binding decision to ensure First Nations child welfare services are properly funded, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has said. In 2016 the tribunal ruled that the federal government was discriminating against indigenous communities by providing indigenous welfare services with 22 percent less funding than non-indigenous ones, despite the First Nations carrying a far higher case-load. The government was ordered to immediately overhaul the system and to provide equitable funding for indigenous child welfare services. But this week the tribunal issued its fourth non-compliance ruling since its 2016 ruling. But "The government has treated some of the tribunal's rulings like recommendations,” said Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. “They are not recommendations; they are legally binding," she made clear. Insufficient funding has led to a historic pattern of removal of First Nations children from their families, who today are 13 times more likely to be placed in state care than non-indigenous children, a 2015 study found. In its latest non-compliance ruling, the tribunal criticised how the government has used the question of underfunding “to justify the mass removal of children rather than preventing it".

     

    UPCOMING EVENTS

    Training: Getting Care Right for All Children
    Organisations: ISS, UNICEF, Better Care Network et al
    Date: 19 February 2018
    Location: Online

    Training: Identifying and investigating cases of forced labour and human trafficking
    Organisation: ITC ILO
    Application deadline: 28 February 2018
    Dates: 9-13 April 2018
    Location: Turin, Italy

    Nominations: International Children’s Peace Prize 2018
    Organisation: KidsRights
    Nomination deadline: 1 March 2018
    Location: Global

    Education: Frontiers of Children's Rights in the Caribbean Spring School 
    Organisation: Leiden University and University of Curaçao 
    Application deadline: 1 February 2018
    Dates: 5-9 March 2018
    Location: Willemstad, Curaçao

    Call for papers: Shared Parenting, Social Justice and Children´s Rights
    Organisation: International Council on Shared Parenting
    Submission deadline: 15 May 2018
    Location: Strasbourg, France

    Justice for children: World Congress
    Organisation: Terres des hommes et al.
    Dates: 28-30 May 2018
    Location: Paris, France

    Conference: International Refugee Rights
    Organisation: Canadian Council for Refugees
    Dates: 7-9 June 2018
    Location: Toronto, Canada 

    Education: International Children’s Rights
    Organisation: Leiden University
    Application deadline: 1 April 2018 (non-EU) / 15 June 2018 (EU students)
    Dates: September 2018 - Summer 2019
    Location: Leiden, The Netherlands

    Conference: Contemporary Childhood - Children in Space, Place and Time
    Organisation: University of Strathclyde
    Application deadline: 27 August 2018
    Dates: 6-7 September 2018
    Location: Glasgow, United Kingdom

     

    EMPLOYMENT

    European Roma Rights Centre: Legal consultant
    Application deadline: 15 February 2018
    Location: Negotiable

    Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children: Treasurer
    Application deadline: 28 February 2018
    Location: London, United Kingdom

    ESCR-Net: Solidarity and Membership Coordinator
    Application deadline: Rolling  
    Location: New York City, United States

    ESCR-Net: Program Coordinator for the Strategic Litigation Working Group
    Application deadline: Rolling
    Location: New York, United States

     

    THE LAST WORD

    "The Committee therefore concludes that the State party failed to consider the best interests of the child when assessing the alleged risk of the author’s daughter to be subjected to female genital mutilation if returned to the Puntland State of Somalia, and to take proper safeguards to ensure the child’s wellbeing upon return, in violation of articles 3 and 19 of the Convention.”

    - Excerpt from the first decision by the Committee on the Rights of the Child finding a violation under its complaints mechanism
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