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COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF THE CHILD CONCLUDES SIXTIETH SESSION
Issues Concluding Observations on Algeria, Australia, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Nepal and Viet Nam
15 June 2012

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today published its concluding observations and recommendations on 11 country reports from seven countries: six on the main Convention (Algeria, Australia, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and Viet Nam); three initial reports of Australia, Greece and Nepal under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and the two initial reports of Australia and Greece under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on children involved in armed conflict.

The Committee closed its sixtieth session on 15 June 2012. In closing remarks, Agnes Akosua Aidoo, the Committee Rapporteur, said that during the session the Committee had kept up its usual busy schedule of dialogue with seven States parties and adoption of concluding observations on 11 reports. The Committee adopted its biennial report to the General Assembly, while members continued to work on ongoing General Comments, and had briefings and other meetings related to the Committee’s work. The Committee had enjoyed a good interaction with members of the Executive Committee of the NGO Group for the Committee on the Rights of the Child over a dinner that was graciously offered by the Group. Committee members continued to work on the development of several General Comments, specifically on the principle of the best interests of the child, on the right to play, on the right to health, on business and children’s rights and a draft joint General Comment on harmful practices, developed with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. During the session the Committee reviewed in detail the preparations for the 2012 Day of General Discussion which had been scheduled for 28 September 2012 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on the theme of “rights of all children in the context of international migration”. On 31 May, the Committee issued a press statement on the massacre that took place in the El Houleh area of Homs in Syria on 25 and 26 May 2012.

In its concluding observations and recommendations on the combined third and fourth report of Algeria, the Committee welcomed the adoption of legislative measures and the lifting of the State of Emergency but expressed deep concern about the situation of girls and women pregnant out of wedlock as well as single mothers and their children. It urged Algeria to take various measures including developing adequate systems of investigation of cases of sexual exploitation and of recovery for the victims; and to prosecute and sanction all perpetrators of sexual violence and exploitation.

Following consideration of the fourth periodic report of Australia the Committee welcomed as positive new legislative, institutional and policy measures but expressed deep concern at the significant increase, of approximately 51 per cent between 2005 and 2010, in the number of children placed in out-of-home care and urged the State party to take all necessary efforts to examine the root causes of the extent of child abuse and neglect as well as to provide general data on the reasons that children were being placed in care.

In response to Australia’s initial report on the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Committee expressed concern that there was a lack of measures to prevent the commercial sexual exploitation of children and that measures to protect vulnerable groups, such as aboriginal girls and homeless children, were inadequate. The Committee also examined the initial report of Australia on the Optional Protocol on children involved in armed conflict, following which it welcomed as positive the legislative amendments which applied to members of the Australian Defence Force who were under the age of 18 years, but remained deeply concerned that the Defence Instructions 2008 only prevented children under the age of 18 from involvement in hostilities to the extent that it did not adversely impact on the conduct of operations.

Concerning the combined third and fourth periodic report of Cyprus, the Committee welcomed new legislation, including laws increasing the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years, but remained deeply concerned about the situation of asylum-seeking and refugee children in the State party and urged it to take urgent and necessary measures, including to adequately address the situation of asylum-seeking children. It also recommended adequate safeguards for children employed as domestic workers were ensured.

In its review of the combined second and third periodic reports of Greece the Committee noted the serious financial and economic crisis currently faced by the State party and expressed its deep concern at the negative effects that was having on public spending affecting services provided to children and families. It was further deeply concerned about the widespread use of institutionalization for children with disabilities, and reports of children living under inhumane and unacceptable conditions, including being systematically sedated, tied to their beds, and the use of cage beds due to shortage of staff.

In response to Greece’s initial report on the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Committee expressed serious concern about discrimination against certain groups of children, limited services for children in street situations and the growing availability of child pornography on the Internet and that a certain degree of impunity continued to exist for such crimes. The Committee also examined the initial report of Greece on the Optional Protocol on children involved in armed conflict and noted with concern that the State party’s legislation did not provide for an explicit criminalization of recruitment of children under 18 years in the State armed forces

Having considered the combined second and third periodic report of Turkey, the Committee welcomed as positive the comprehensive human rights reform process undertaken by the State party but expressed its deep concern about the reports of ill-treatment and torture against children, especially Kurdish children who had been involved in political assemblies, in prisons, police stations, vehicles and on the streets. While noting the efforts of the State party in combating gender based violence, the Committee remained concerned that practices of “honour killings”, suicide under pressure and arranged early and forced marriages persisted among poorer and less educated social groups.

With regard to the combined third and fourth periodic report of Viet Nam, the Committee welcomed as positive new laws against human trafficking, on people with disabilities, on adoption, on healthcare insurance, on nationality and on education. It expressed deep concern at the high number of children who still lived in poverty, and about the rise in child prostitution, cases of child trafficking and the increasing number of children involved in commercial sexual activity, mainly due to poverty-related reasons. The State party was strongly recommended to take measures such as a strategy for the prevention of child sexual exploitation and abuse, focusing on vulnerable groups of children.

In response to Nepal’s initial report on the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Committee welcomed laws to combat domestic violence, caste-based discrimination, human trafficking and raising the legal age of marriage of girls to that of boys (20 years). It expressed deep concern that thousands of children were trafficked every year within and outside the country for the purpose mainly of sexual and labour exploitation, but also for use in circus, forced begging, forced marriage, slavery and for the sale of organs and that trafficking of children was on the rise.

The Committee’s sixty-first session will be held in Geneva from 17 September to 5 October 2012, during which it will review the reports of Albania, Austria, Namibia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Liberia, Canada and Albania under the main Convention. The reports of Albania, Philippines and Canada on the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, and the report of Albania on the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict will also be considered. The concluding observations and recommendations, and the country reports, are available on the Committee’s webpage.

Final Observations and Recommendations on Reports Presented Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Algeria

Having considered the combined third and fourth report of Algeria, the Committee welcomed the adoption of legislative measures including the criminalization of trafficking in persons, the 2008 Education Act and the lifting of the State of Emergency, in force since 1992, on 24 February 2011. The Committee also noted with satisfaction the ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on children in armed conflict and on the sale of children. The Committee commended the State party for the invitation it extended in March 2010 to seven United Nations special procedures mandate holders, as well as to other mechanisms. However the Committee expressed deep concern about the situation of girls and women pregnant out of wedlock as well as single mothers and their children, and about the lack of measures taken by the State party to ensure that they effectively enjoyed their right to life, survival and development. The Committee was seriously concerned that dozens of single mothers living alone with their children were physically and sexually attacked and subjected to torture by hundreds of men in Hassi Messaoud in 2001 and 2010 and that similar attacks recently took place in other cities of the country. Social rejection and stigmatisation often led women and girls pregnant out of wedlock to resort to clandestine abortions at the risk of their lives, to abandon their children or to live on the streets without any other opportunity but to prostitute themselves to feed their children. The Committee urged the State party to take urgent measures to end the grave violations of the right to life, survival and development of women and girls pregnant out of wedlock as well as single mothers and their children.

The Committee expressed deep concern that sexual abuse against children in school, including religious schools, incest and pedophilia were on the rise in the State party. In particular, it urged the State party to revise article 336 of the Penal Code and define the crime of rape as sexual intercourse without consent; to develop adequate systems of investigation of cases of sexual exploitation and of recovery for the victims; to prosecute and sanction all perpetrators of sexual violence and exploitation, including teachers, and to strengthen the recruitment of female teachers who provided valuable role models for young girls and reduced the probability of abuse by teachers. The Committee was further concerned about the lack of measures adopted by the State party to address domestic violence which was pervasive, not specifically prohibited by law and widely accepted as part of normal life. The Committee was particularly concerned that the vast majority of children and two thirds of women were subjected to violence in the home. It urged the State party to adopt as a matter of priority a law criminalizing all forms of domestic violence, including marital rape, and to repeal all legal provisions that excused perpetrators of domestic violence.

Australia

Following consideration of the fourth periodic report of Australia, the Committee welcomed as positive legislative measures including the Family Law Legislation Amendment and the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010, and institutional and policy measures including the National Framework for Protecting Australian Children 2009-2020, the National Early Years Strategy and the National Apologies by the Prime Minister to the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants and to the Stolen Generations regarding the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islander children, in 2008. However, the Committee expressed deep concern at the significant increase, of approximately 51 per cent between 2005 and 2010, in the number of children placed in out-of-home care and urged the State party to take all necessary efforts to examine the root causes of the extent of child abuse and neglect as well as to provide general data on the reasons that children were being placed in care. Deep concern was expressed at the marked increases in the rates of Sexually Transmissible Infections among young people in the State party, and the Committee recommended that efforts to provide adolescents with education on sex and reproductive health were intensified. The Committee also expressed deep concern about certain provisions relating to asylum-seeking and refugee children. It urged the State party to bring its immigration and asylum laws into full conformity with the Convention, as well as taking other measures.

The Committee expressed concern about the difficulties faced by Aboriginal persons in relation to birth registration and urged the State party to review its birth registration process in detail to ensure that all children born in Australia were registered at birth, and that no child was disadvantaged due to procedural barriers to registration, including by raising awareness among the Aboriginal population on the importance of birth registration and providing special support to facilitate birth registration for illiterate persons. It further urged the State party to issue birth certificates upon the birth of a child and for free. The Committee welcomed the amendment to the national Family Law, which prioritized the safety of children in the family law system while continuing to promote a child’s right to a meaningful relationship with both parents where that was safe. However, it noted that the rates of domestic violence continued to be high and that the training approaches adopted by the State party to recognise and address potential cases of abuse and neglect by professionals working with or for children, including doctors and other medical personnel as well as teachers, remained inadequate. The Committee recommended that the State party prioritise early intervention approaches, including at the antenatal period, to provide support to families in situations of heightened vulnerability and prevent or mitigate abuse and neglect of children and violence in the home.

Cyprus

Concerning the combined third and fourth periodic report of Cyprus, the Committee welcomed new legislation including laws increasing the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years, on combating trafficking in persons and on the protection of children of sentenced women or women suspects. The Committee also welcomed the establishment of a Youth Advisory Committee, the adoption of a National Drug Strategy and the adoption of a National Action Plan for the Prevention and Combating of Violence in the Family. The Committee reiterated its observation that the State party, as a consequence of events that occurred in 1974 and that resulted in the occupation of part of the territory of Cyprus, was not in a position to exercise control over all of its territory and consequently could not ensure the application of the Convention in areas not under its control. However, it remained a matter of concern to the Committee that no information on children living in the occupied territories could be provided. The Committee remained deeply concerned that the State party had no centralised national registry for the collection of data and urged the State party to expeditiously take measures to establish a comprehensive system for data collection, analysis and monitoring, with data that was disaggregated by age, gender, ethnicity, geographic region and socio-economic background.

The Committee welcomed the State party’s adoption of further amendments to its Refugee Law between 2002 and 2009 to further transpose the European Union Asylum Acquis and international protection standards into its national law. However, the Committee remained deeply concerned about the situation of asylum-seeking and refugee children in the State party and urged it to take urgent and necessary measures, including to adequately address the situation of asylum-seeking children. While noting as positive the amendment of the Law on the Protection of Young Persons at Work, the Committee was concerned that the monitoring and protection of children employed as domestic workers remained inadequate, with no legislation requiring the compulsory registration of child domestic workers and the current labour inspectorate not having the mandate to carry-out inspections on the working and living conditions of children in such employment. The Committee recommended that the State party considered further amendments to that law to ensure adequate safeguards for children employed as domestic workers.

Greece

Regarding the combined second and third periodic reports of Greece, the Committee noted with appreciation new legislative measures for large-family benefits, juvenile offenders, the special education of persons with disabilities or special educational needs; the management of domestic violence and prohibition of corporal punishment, prohibition of discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin in education and establishment of Local Youth Councils. While noting the serious financial and economic crisis currently faced by the State party, the Committee expressed its deep concern at the negative effects that it was having on public spending affecting services provided to children and families. In that respect, the Committee urged the State party to sustain and expand social investment and social protection of those in most vulnerable situations and to employ an equitable approach giving priority to children. The Committee also expressed deep concern about the increasing school drop-out rates and high youth unemployment rate in Greece, which was currently 40 per cent, one of the highest in Europe. It recommended that the State party as quickly as possible conduct an assessment of the effects of the crisis on life prospects and development of children, especially adolescents, with a view to minimizing risks to their survival and development. Finally the Committee remained deeply concerned at the negative attitudes, prejudices and discrimination of children of minorities and in particular Roma children and urged the State party to strengthen its efforts to remove discrimination

The Committee noted the adoption of laws and new services and institutions that aimed to support children with disabilities, promote their social participation and develop their independence, but remained concerned that deep-rooted discrimination still existed. The Committee was deeply concerned at the widespread use of institutionalization for children with disabilities, mainly because of lack of day care and community services for children with the most serious forms of disabilities, and was further deeply concerned about the recently reported case of Children’s Care Centre in Lechaina of children with disabilities living under inhumane and unacceptable conditions, including being systematically sedated and subject to practices such as being tied to their beds, and the use of cage beds due to shortage of staff. The Committee noted with concern that due to the current economic hardship facing families, children may increasingly be deprived of their family environment, accentuating a tendency towards institutionalization of children, which was already of concern to the Committee in the past. The Committee recommended that the State party put in place measures to prevent the worsening of the trend towards depriving children of their family environment, in particular with regard to improved understanding and knowledge of parental responsibilities, all forms of support to families to increase their parenting capacities, as well as to search for family-type alternatives when necessary.

Turkey

Having considered the combined second and third periodic report of Turkey, the Committee welcomed as positive the comprehensive human rights reform process undertaken by the State party, including numerous constitutional amendments and legislative reform packages, in particular amendments to the Counter-terrorism Law providing for children to stand trial in juvenile courts and softening penalties for children under the age of 18, and to the Turkish Penal Code increasing the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 11 to 12; and a new law on education, rehabilitation, care and social security of children with disabilities. The Committee also welcomed and commended the adoption of several policies and programmes that promote the rights and wellbeing of children, including the National Child Rights Strategy and the National Action Plan on Gender Equality. The Committee expressed its deep concern about the reports of ill-treatment and torture against children, especially Kurdish children who had been involved in political assemblies and activities, in prisons, police stations, vehicles and on the streets. It was particularly concerned about the number of children killed in the Eastern and Southeastern region and reported instances of suicides committed by children in detention. The State party was urged to take several measures including ensuring that the detention of children was subject to regular review so as to make certain that no child was subject to any form of ill-treatment after arrest and during detention.

While noting the efforts of the State party in combating gender based violence, including “honour killings” and suicide under social pressure, the Committee remained concerned that such practice continued and the significant numbers of victims were women, including girl children. In line with the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and other United Nations bodies the Committee strongly recommended that the State party continued its legal reform to ensure more effective deterrents to the practices of gender-based violence, including “honour killings” and suicide under pressure, ensured prompt and effective investigations into all allegations of such crimes and provided sufficient number of shelters to host and protect women and children who were in danger. The Committee noted with concern that, although social norms were gradually changing, the prevalence of arranged early and forced marriages persisted among poorer and less educated social groups particularly those living in rural areas and of rural origin, frequently in the South-Eastern and Eastern regions. The Committee was concerned that the practice of bride price seemed to bring financial incentives to early and forced marriage and urged the State party to intensify its efforts to combat arranged, early and forced marriage and to design and implement long-term strategies, as well as education and awareness raising programmes, targeting all levels of society.

Viet Nam

With regard to the combined third and fourth periodic report of Viet Nam, the Committee welcomed as positive new laws against human trafficking, on people with disabilities, on adoption, on healthcare insurance, on nationality and on education, as well as various child-related national goal programs, institutional and policy measures. While welcoming the significant efforts made by the State party to reduce poverty the Committee was deeply concerned at the high number of children who still lived in poverty and at the disproportional concentration of child poverty within certain ethnic minorities and migrant populations. The Committee recommended that the State party increase and sustain the social assistance cash transfer programme for low-income families with children, and ensure that such support was extended to all poor or near poor families of ethnic minority origin, families of informal workers and families of migrants. The Committee remained concerned about the rise in child prostitution; the rise in the number of cases of child trafficking including, but not only, for prostitution purposes; and the increasing number of children involved in commercial sexual activity, mainly due to poverty-related reasons. The Committee was further concerned that children who were sexually exploited were likely to be treated as criminals by the police. The Committee strongly recommended that the State party took measures such as a strategy for the prevention of child sexual exploitation and abuse, focusing on vulnerable groups of children.

The Committee expressed deep concern that many children had reportedly been and still were subjected to ill treatment or torture while being administratively detained in drug detention centers, including through the imposition of solitary confinement punishment measures. It urged the State party to take all necessary measures to prevent, prohibit and protect children administratively detained in connection with drug addiction problems. The Committee welcomed the progress made towards the deinstitutionalisation of care for children deprived of a family environment. Nevertheless, it was concerned at the high prevalence of institutionalisation of children, in particular children with disabilities, children with HIV, children whose parents were deceased, as well as abandoned and unwanted children. It recommended that the State party develop a strategy for the deinstitutionalisation of children with a clear time frame and budget. The Committee welcomed the approval of the Law on Adoption in 2010 in line with the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption and further took note of the State party’s statement that inter-country adoption was considered as a last resort after exhausting all other options inside the country, and also of the information provided by the State party on the decrease in the number of child adoptions in 2011.

Final Observations and Recommendations on Reports Under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

In response to the initial report of Australia, the Committee welcomed positive initiatives including National Plans of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons and against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, as well as the Australian Policing Strategy to Combat Trafficking in Persons 2011. The Committee expressed concern that the sale of children was not defined and criminalized as a specific offence. It was further concerned that there was a lack of measures to prevent the commercial sexual exploitation of children and that measures to protect vulnerable groups, such as aboriginal girls and homeless children, were inadequate. Furthermore, the Committee was concerned that the underlying root causes of the offences under the Optional Protocol, such as poverty, were not sufficiently addressed. The Committee recommended that the State party conduct awareness raising programmes, especially for such vulnerable groups, and carry out research on the nature and extent of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, in order to identify the root causes, the extent of the problems, and the existence of protection and prevention measures, and adopt targeted measures.

Following its review of the initial report of Greece, the Committee welcomed the adoption of laws providing compensation to victims of violent international crime, fighting trafficking in persons, crimes against sexual freedom, child pornography and the economic exploitation of sexual life in general and a bilateral agreement between Greece and Albania to protect and assist victims of trafficking of minors. The 2006 National Action Plan against trafficking in human beings was further welcomed. The Committee was especially concerned about persistent discrimination against Roma children; persistent discrimination against children belonging to Muslim community of Thrace; the great number of migrant and asylum-seeking children, including unaccompanied children, arriving daily to the State party’s borders, and the lack of reception facilities and the poor quality of the existing ones; the limited availability of services for children in street situations, children with disabilities, and children victims of domestic violence; and the growing availability of child pornography on the Internet and that a certain degree of impunity continued to exist for such crimes. It recommended that the State party took all the necessary measures to ensure that all children, including Roma children, were registered at birth and had access to education and to essential services; combat harmful practices that amount to the sale of children, establish reception facilities for refugee and asylum-seeking children and undertake targeted preventive measures in light of the changing nature of interactions over the Internet.

Following examination of Nepal’s initial report, the Committee welcomed the adoption of several new pieces of legislation, which included laws to combat domestic violence, caste-based discrimination, human trafficking, raising the legal age of marriage of girls to that of boys (20 years) and authorizing both male and female family members to register their children at birth. Several national plans that facilitated the implementation of the Protocol had been adopted. The Committee noted with appreciation the State party’s efforts to combat trafficking but was deeply concerned that thousands of children were trafficked every year within and outside the country for the purpose mainly of sexual and labour exploitation, but also for use in circus, forced begging, forced marriage, slavery and for the sale of organs and that trafficking of children was on the rise. The Committee urged the State party to ensure effective enforcement of its legislation and in particular to promptly establish an effective system to detect and dismantle brothels and other places where child prostitution took place, as well as other urgent measures. The State party was also urged to adopt a zero tolerance approach towards cases where authorities were directly involved in cases of sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and to address vigorously the issue of corruption and impunity as a matter of priority.

Final Observations and Recommendations on Reports Presented Under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict

Regarding the initial report of Australia, the Committee welcomed as positive the legislative amendments which applied to members of the Australian Defence Force who were under the age of 18 years, but remained deeply concerned that the Defence Instructions 2008 only prevented children under the age of 18 from involvement in hostilities to the extent that it did not adversely impact on the conduct of operations. The Committee noted with concern that the application of that provision could lead to the direct participation of children under the age of 18 years in hostilities. The Committee recommended that the State party review its domestic legislation and military procedures to ensure that members of the armed forces who were under the age of 18 did not take direct part in hostilities in accordance with Article 1 of the Optional Protocol. In that regard, the Committee further recommended that the State party defined the concepts of “direct participation” and “hostilities” in relevant domestic legislation.


Following its review of the initial report of Greece, the Committee noted with appreciation the declaration made at the time of ratification by the State party that the minimum age at which voluntary recruitment in the Greek armed forces was permitted by national law was 18 years, as well as the State party’s ratification of accession to several related international mechanisms. However, the Committee noted with concern that the State party’s legislation did not provide for an explicit criminalization of recruitment of children under 18 years in the State armed forces, armed groups and security companies, and a definition of direct participation in hostilities, and recommended it rectify that in its Criminal Code. Furthermore, the Committee regretted the absence of information on national legislation which prohibited the sale of arms when the final destination was a country where children were known to be, or may potentially be, recruited or used in armed conflicts and/or hostilities and urged Greece to ensure the explicit prohibition in its national legislation of export of arms, especially of small arms and light weapons, to such countries. The Committee regretted the lack of information on measures taken to provide assistance to children who may have been recruited or used in armed conflicts abroad, and on measures taken for their physical and psychological recovery and social integration, and encouraged the State party to take measures to carefully assess the situation of those children.

For use of the information media; not an official record

CRC12/025E