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    HR/4570
    15 October 2001

    COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF CHILD CONCLUDES
    TWENTY-EIGHTH SESSION

    Issues Final Conclusions and Recommendations on Reports of Mauritania,
    Kenya, Oman, Portugal, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Gambia, Paraguay, Cameroon, Cape Verde

    (Reissued as received.)


    GENEVA, 12 October (UN Information Service) -- The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its three-week autumn session by issuing it final conclusions and recommendations on reports submitted to it by Mauritania, Kenya, Oman, Portugal, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Gambia, Paraguay, Cameroon and Cape Verde on how these countries implement the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    The 10 countries, in keeping with their obligations as States parties to the Convention, presented the Committee with written reports on their efforts to promote and protect children's rights. They also sent government delegations to discuss the documents and answer questions from the Committee's 10 independent experts.

    In reviewing the report of Mauritania, the Committee welcomed the recent adoption of the Personal Status Code, which contained provisions to protect children including the prohibition of early marriage; it, however, expressed concern regarding the high rates of early pregnancy, and the growing numbers of cases of HIV/AIDS among youths. It recommended that the State party undertake a comprehensive and multidisciplinary study to assess the scope of adolescent health problems in order to be able to develop adequate policies and programmes.

    Among positive aspects in the report of Kenya, the Committee noted with appreciation that the State party had put in place a Poverty Eradication Plan and had developed a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper for 2000-2003 to address increasing poverty; it was concerned about the incidence of police brutality, particularly against children; and recommended that greater efforts be made to prevent all forms of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment by police forces.

    On the report of Oman, the Committee appreciated that the State party had achieved most of the goals of the World Summit for Children, including reductions in infant and under-five mortality; it was concerned about discrimination against females and children born out of wedlock under the 1997 Personal Status Law; and it recommended that the State party take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on grounds of sex and birth in all fields.

    The Committee welcomed the substantial changes in Portugal in various fields of legislation, including the administration of juvenile justice; the establishment of a pre-school system; the raising of the minimum age of military service to the age of 18; and the adoption of a law increasing the protection of asylum seekers. It recommended that the State party adopt legislation prohibiting corporal punishment in the family and in any other contexts not covered by the existing legislation and that it develop mechanisms to end the practice of corporal punishment.

    With regard to the report of report of Qatar, the Committee welcomed the adoption of a law concerning free and compulsory education for all; the establishment of the Supreme Council of Family Affairs; and the ratification of ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour. It was, however, concerned about discrimination against females and children born out of wedlock under existing personal status law; and it recommended that the State party take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on grounds of sex and birth in all fields.

    On the report of Uzbekistan, the Committee welcomed the establishment of new institutions, including the Family, Mother and Child Welfare Secretariat and the Committee for Youth Affairs; however, it was deeply concerned about numerous and continuing reports of ill-treatment of persons under 18 by the militia; and it deplored the insufficient efforts to investigate allegations of torture, as well as the failure to prosecute alleged perpetrators. It recommended that all necessary and effective steps be taken to prevent incidents of ill-treatment from occurring.

    Concerning the Gambia, the Committee welcomed the HIV/AIDS Rapid Project launched to help combat the spread of HIV/AIDS; and the creation of a Global Movement for Children Committee at the National Assembly. It recommended, among other things, that the State party take effective measures, including a thorough review of all existing legislation, to ensure that domestic law, including customary and Islamic laws, fully conformed to the provisions and principles of the Convention.

    On the report of Paraguay, the Committee welcomed the adoption in 1997 of the Adoption Act to combat trafficking in children and establish strict control over all matters connected with adoption; and the law against domestic violence. It was concerned that the principle of non-discrimination was not fully implemented for children belonging to indigenous groups or those groups speaking only Guarani; and other groups of children. It urged the State party to put an end to the practice of recruiting children into the Paraguayan armed forces and national police, and to punish those involved in forcible recruitment.

    The Committee welcomed the ratification by Cameroon of ILO Convention 138 concerning the worst forms of child labour; the establishment of the children's parliament; and the actions undertaken by the State party to ameliorate the situation of refugee children. It said it was deeply concerned about the living conditions of children detained in jails and prisons, which were so deplorable that they endangered their lives; and it recommended that all necessary measures be taken to ensure that they were provided access to health and education services and with food.

    The Committee welcomed the many improvements carried out by the Government of Cape Verde with respect to children's rights and the situation of children over the last two decades; it was, however, concerned at incidents of sexual abuse and incest, and the mistreatment of children in the family; and at the incidence of domestic violence, which had a negative impact on children. It recommended that the State party monitor and record incidents involving children, including violence against women in the family.

    Also during this session, the Committee held a day of general discussion on the theme of "violence against children within the family and in schools" and recommended, among other things, that an alternative vision of a school and a family where the rights and dignity of all were respected, including children, parents and teachers, should guide all actions on the issue of violence against children.

    The Committee encouraged the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize a special workshop for all relevant treaty bodies and special procedures, involving United Nations bodies and agencies, regional human rights mechanisms and relevant non-governmental organizations, to examine, among other things, the possible need for either an optional protocol to the Convention to establish a procedure for individual complaints, or the establishment of a new "special procedure" of the Commission on Human Rights.

    The Committee's next session, its twenty-ninth, will be held from 14 January to 1 February 2002. It will consider reports from Lebanon, Greece, Gabon, United Arab Emirates, Mozambique, Chile, Malawi, Bahrain and Andorra.

    Conclusions and Recommendations on Country Reports

    Mauritania

    On the initial report of Mauritania, the Committee welcomed the recent adoption of the Personal Status Code, which contained provisions to protect children including the prohibition of early marriage; the act making basic education compulsory for all children between the ages of six and 14; and an amended Labour Code in compliance with the Convention which prohibited child labour before the age of 16.

    The Committee expressed its concern about the absence of an independent mechanism, such as an ombudsman or a commission for children, to monitor children's rights and to receive and address individual complaints from children on violations of their rights under the Convention. The Committee encouraged the State party to establish an independent and effective mechanism accessible to children.

    The Committee recommended, among other things, that the general principles of the Convention, particularly the principles of non-discrimination, best interests of the child, right to life, and maximum possible survival and development and development of the child, be appropriately integrated in all legislation concerning children.

    The Committee was concerned that corporal punishment of children was widely practised in the family; it noted that it was not expressly banned in schools and institutions; and it recommended that the State party promote alternative forms of discipline in families, in schools and in other institutions.

    The Committee recommended that the State party allocate appropriate resources and develop comprehensive policies and programmes to improve the health situation of all children without discrimination; prevent child mortality and morbidity; and provide adequate ante-natal and post-natal health-care services.

    It also recommended that the State party undertake measures to ensure that the situation of children with disabilities was adequately monitored in order to effectively assess their situation and needs; and that it allocate the necessary resources for programmes and facilities for all children with disabilities.

    The Committee expressed its concern regarding the high rates of early pregnancy, the rise in the number of children and youths using tobacco and drugs, and the growing numbers of cases of HIV/AIDS among youths. It recommended that the State party undertake a comprehensive and multidisciplinary study to assess the scope of adolescent health problems in order to be able to develop adequate policies and programmes.

    Kenya

    Among positive aspects in the report of Kenya, the Committee noted with appreciation that the State party had put in place a Poverty Eradication Plan and had developed a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper for the period 2000-2003 to address increasing poverty, focusing primarily on basic social services. It welcomed, among other things, the establishment of the Family Division of the High Court and the setting up of a crisis desk and a hotline service to receive reports from child victims of abuse, including sexual abuse.

    Under factors and difficulties impeding progress in the implementation of the Convention, the Committee noted the impact of high external debt payments, pressures exerted by structural adjustment, increasing levels of unemployment, the declining economic conditions, and rampant corruption, especially on children belonging to the most vulnerable groups. The existence of more than 40 ethnic groups seemed also to be a major difficulty in the implementation of the Convention and in enacting adequate domestic legislation, particularly because of their own customary laws.

    The Committee was concerned that the principle of non-discrimination was not adequately implemented with respect to certain vulnerable groups of children, especially girls; children born out of wedlock; children with disabilities; children of economically disadvantaged families; child victims of abuse; and refugee and asylum-seeking children, among others. It recommended that the State party take all effective measures to implement laws, policies and programmes to guarantee the principle of non-discrimination and full compliance with the provisions of the Convention.

    While the Committee noted that corporal punishment had been formally banned in schools as a matter of policy, it was deeply concerned that that form of punishment continued to be practised in schools, as well as in the juvenile justice system, families and care institutions, with cases of permanent injuries and even deaths. The Committee recommended that the State party take legislative measures to prohibit all forms of physical and mental violence and to monitor the ban of corporal punishment in all places.

    The Committee was concerned about the incidence of police brutality, particularly against children living and/or working on the streets, refugee children and those in conflict with the law. Concern was also expressed at the inadequate enforcement of existing legislation to ensure that all children were treated with respect for their physical and mental integrity and their inherent dignity. The Committee strongly recommended that all appropriate measures be taken to fully implement the provisions of the Convention. In that regard, the Committee recommended that greater efforts be made to prevent all forms of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment by police forces.

    The Committee said it was concerned about the high and increasing incidence of physical and sexual abuse of children, and it recommended that the State party undertake studies on domestic violence, including sexual abuse within the family.

    The Committee was deeply concerned that female genital mutilation was not prohibited by law and was still widely practised in the country. Concern was also expressed about the persistent practice of other harmful traditional practices, including early and forced marriages. It recommended that the State party take legislative and awareness raising measures to prohibit them.

    Oman

    On the report of Oman, the Committee appreciated that the State party had achieved most of the goals of the World Summit for Children, including reductions in infant and under-five mortality, almost 98 per cent immunization coverage annually, high primary and secondary enrolment, and near parity in school enrolment between girls and boys. It noted the high level of commitment to health care as evidenced by its rank of eighth in the world for its overall health system performance. It welcomed Oman's ratification of ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour; and the introduction of the new system of reporting child abuse and neglect.

    The Committee recommended that the State party, among other things, expeditiously complete its re-examination of its reservations to articles 7, 9, 21 and 30 of the Convention with a view to withdraw them in accordance with the Declaration and Plan of Action of the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights; and to study its reservation to article 14 with a view to narrowing it, taking account of the Human Rights Committee's General Comment 22 on the freedom of religion.

    Further, the Committee recommended that Oman undertake a comprehensive review of existing legislation, from a rights-based approach, to ensure its conformity with the principles and provisions of the Convention; and that it consider adoption of a comprehensive children's code which would incorporate the principles and provisions of the Convention.

    The Committee was concerned about discrimination against females and children born out of wedlock under the 1997 Personal Status Law; it recommended that the State party take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on grounds of sex and birth in all fields; and that it consider the practice of other States that had been successful in reconciling fundamental rights with Islamic texts.

    The Committee was concerned at the disparities in enjoyment of economic and social rights, particularly health and education, experienced by children living in rural areas; it recommended that all the necessary measures were taken to ensure that all children enjoyed all the rights set out in the Convention; and it recommended that the State party consider ratification of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

    The Committee was seriously concerned at the hazardous situation of children involved in camel racing, adding that such involvement produced serious injuries, even fatalities; and it concurred with the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations which had previously indicated that the employment of children as camel jockeys constituted dangerous work under ILO Convention No. 138 concerning the minimum age for admission to employment.

    Portugal

    As part of positive aspects to the second periodic report of Portugal, the Committee welcomed the substantial changes in various fields of legislation, including the administration of juvenile justice; the establishment of a pre-school system, the raising of the minimum age of military service to age 18, and the adoption of a law increasing the protection of asylum-seekers.

    However, the Committee was concerned about the lack of a comprehensive national strategy for the implementation of the Convention; it recommended that the State party develop a comprehensive national strategy; that it set priorities and define a time frame for implementation; and that it define and allocate adequate resources for the implementation of a strategy.

    The Committee noted the numerous efforts initiated by Portugal to address discrimination including the development of mechanisms, conduct of surveys and implementation of policies. It was concerned, however, with regard to de facto discrimination in the context of children and families living in poverty within some less developed rural and urban areas, the Roma and their children in particular. It recommended that the State party continue and strengthen its efforts to ensure the equal respect for all children of the right to non-discrimination.

    The Committee recommended that the State party adopt legislation prohibiting corporal punishment in the family and in any other contexts not covered by the existing legislation and that it develop mechanisms to end the practice of corporal punishment.

    The Committee welcomed the State party's emphasis on the integration of children with disabilities into mainstream education; however, it remained concerned that resources for the special education of children with disabilities were unevenly distributed across the country. It recommended that the State party continue to strengthen its efforts to ensure the integration of those children into regular schools.

    The Committee noted the significant progress made in increasing the numbers of children completing secondary education; however, it remained concerned about the low levels of investment in education, including pre-school, and the limited use of information technology in schools, among other things.

    The Committee recommended that the State party study the scope and causes of children living on the street; ensure that street children were informed of their rights; and strengthen children's participation in achieving respect for them.

    Qatar

    Among the positive aspects in the initial report of Qatar, the Committee welcomed the adoption of a law concerning free and compulsory education for all; the establishment of the Supreme Council of Family Affairs; the ratification of ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour; and the generous financial aid given to developing countries.

    The Committee encouraged the State party to expeditiously complete its re-examination of its general reservation, which potentially negated many of the Convention's provisions, with view to narrowing it and ultimately withdrawing it.

    The Committee was concerned that the minimum ages for marriage and employment were unclear under Qatari law; it recommended that the State party review its legislation so that the minimum-age requirements for marriage and employment conformed to the principles and provisions of the Convention, were gender neutral, were explicit and that it ensure that they were enforced by law.

    The Committee was concerned about discrimination against females and children born out of wedlock under the existing personal status law; and the persistence of stereotypical attitudes about the roles and responsibilities of women and men. It recommended that the State party take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on grounds of sex and birth in all fields.

    The Committee strongly recommended that the State party take immediate steps to ensure that the imposition of the death penalty or life imprisonment for crimes committed by persons under 18 was prohibited by law. Further, it recommended that immediate steps be taken to ensure that imposition of flogging and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment was prohibited by law.

    Concern was also expressed that the 1961 Nationality Act of the State party did not grant equal citizenship status to children of Qatari women married to non-nationals, as it did where the father was Qatari. The Committee recommended that the right of a child be ensured to a nationality without discrimination.

    The Committee was seriously concerned at the hazardous situation of children involved in camel racing as such involvement produced serious injuries, even fatalities; and it concurred with the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations which had previously indicated that the employment of children as camel jockeys constituted dangerous work under ILO Convention No. 138 concerning the minimum age for admission to employment.

    Cameroon

    The Committee welcomed the ratification by Cameroon of the ILO Convention No. 138 concerning the worst forms of child labour; the establishment of the children's parliament; and the actions undertaken by the State party to ameliorate the situation of refugee children.

    The Committee was, however, concerned at the difference between the minimum legal ages for marriage of boys, 18 years, and that of girls, 15 years, which was gender discriminatory and allowed for the practice of early marriages, which was still widespread. It was also concerned that the age of 14 years as the minimum age for admission to employment was not in line with ILO Convention 138 on minimum age for admission to employment. It recommended that the State party undertake appropriate measures to bring the definition of the child in line with provisions of international treaties.

    The Committee said it was deeply concerned at the living conditions of children detained in jails and prisons, which were so deplorable that they endangered their lives; and it recommended that all necessary measures be taken to ensure that they were provided access to health and education services and with food.

    It recommended, among other things, that the State party complete as soon as possible the study on violence at home and in schools undertaken by the Government, and assess the scope, nature and causes of those practices in order to adopt effective measures and policies in conformity with the Convention.

    The Committee was concerned that insufficient attention had been given to adolescent health issues, including developmental, mental and reproductive health concerns, and substance abuse. It recommended that a comprehensive study be undertaken to assess the nature and extent of adolescent health problems.

    While taking note that the prevalence of female genital mutilation was not as high in Cameroon as in other countries in the region, the Committee urged the State party to adopt legislation to prohibit the practice and implement programmes to sensitize the population about the harmful effects of that practice.

    The Committee recommended that the State party urgently implement the Finance Act 2000/08 to make primary education free to all and in addition to provide financial assistance for poor families.

    Uzbekistan

    On the initial report of Uzbekistan, the Committee appreciated, among other things, that in the areas of human rights, the State party had sought cooperation and assistance from United Nations

    agencies; and it welcomed the establishment of new institutions, including the Family, Mother and Child Welfare Secretariat and the Committee for Youth Affairs.

    The Committee noted the establishment of the Ombudsman in 1997; however, it was concerned that the mandate did not provide for regular monitoring and evaluation of the progress in the implementation of the Convention; and it recommended that the independence of the Ombudsman be ensured and that the State party strengthen its support to the institution.

    It recommended that the State party review its legislation so that the definition of the child, and minimum-age requirements conformed to the principles and provisions of the Convention, were gender neutral, were explicit, and that Uzbekistan ensure that they were effectively enforced by law.

    The Committee was concerned at the prevailing disparities in the enjoyment of rights of children in Uzbekistan, in particular with the situation of children belonging to the most vulnerable groups; and it recommended that the State party ensure that all children within its jurisdiction enjoyed all the rights set out in the Convention.

    Also, the Committee was deeply concerned by numerous and continuing reports of ill-treatment of persons under 18 by the militia, including psychological intimidation and corporal punishment, for the purposes of extorting confessions; it deplored the insufficient efforts to investigate allegations of torture, as well as the failure to prosecute alleged perpetrators; and it recommended that all necessary and effective steps be taken to prevent incidents of ill-treatment from occurring.

    The Committee recommended that the State party ensure that its commitment to primary health care was met by adequate allocation of human and financial resources; that all children, especially from the most vulnerable groups, had access to health care; and that it continue and strengthen implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) strategy promoting effective perinatal care to address high maternal, infant and child mortality. It was concerned at the increasing rate of teenage pregnancies, and the consequent rate of abortions among girls under 18; and it recommended that the State party ensure that adolescents have access to education on reproductive health.

    Gambia

    Among the positive aspects on the initial report of the Gambia, the Committee welcomed the HIV/AIDS Rapid Project launched to help combat the spread of HIV/AIDS; the National Disability Survey 1998, which was conducted in cooperation with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to determine the forms and geographic location of children with disabilities; and the creation of a Global Movement for Children Committee at the National Assembly.

    The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party take effective measures, including a thorough review of all existing legislation, to ensure that domestic law, including customary and Islamic laws, fully conformed to the provisions and principles of the Convention.

    The Committee was concerned that there was no clear legal definition of the child in Gambia; it recommended that the State party establish a clear definition of the child in accordance with the Convention; set up a legal minimum age for marriage of girls and boys at 18 years; and that it establish clear legal minimum ages for compulsory education, employment, enlistment into the armed forces.

    It expressed grave concern that corporal punishment was still practised and accepted in schools, families, and care and juvenile detention institutions, and as a punishment in the penal system. The Committee recommended that the State party take legislative measures to prohibit all forms of physical and mental violence, including corporal punishment.

    The Committee was concerned about the high and increasing incidence of physical and sexual abuse of children; and it recommended that the State party undertake studies on domestic violence, ill-treatment and abuse against children.

    The Committee recommended that the State party allocate sufficient resources to reinforce its policies and programmes to improve health care for children; and that it strengthen adolescent health policies, including reproductive health education.

    Further, the Committee recommended that the State party reinforce its efforts to provide support and material assistance to economically disadvantaged families and to guarantee the right of children to an adequate standard of living.

    Concerned at the high number of children who were begging in the streets, the Committee recommended that the State party conduct a study to better assess the scope of that phenomenon and to introduce programmes to discourage and prevent child begging.

    Paraguay

    Cited among the positive aspects in the second periodic report of Paraguay were the adoption in 1997 of the Adoption Act to combat trafficking in children and establish strict control over all matters connected with adoption; the law against domestic violence; and the establishment in 1997 of a Juvenile Complaints Department for the receipt of complaints of the violations of children's rights.

    The Committee reiterated its concern about the disparity between the legal minimum age for admission to employment, 12 years, and the age for the end of compulsory education, 15 years. It recommended that the State party increase the minimum age for admission to employment in order to prevent children from starting to work before the completion of compulsory education.

    The Committee was concerned that the principle of non-discrimination was not fully implemented for children belonging to indigenous groups or those groups speaking only Guarani; and other groups of children. It recommended that the State party take all the necessary measures to end discrimination.

    With regard to corporal punishment, the Committee was concerned that it remained socially acceptable in Paraguay and that it was still practised in families, schools and other institutions. The State party was recommended to develop measures to raise awareness on the harmful effects of corporal punishment and to explicitly prohibit its use.

    The Committee recommended that Paraguay improve social assistance to families to help them with their child-rearing responsibilities and to respond to the increased incidence in the breakdown of families, in particular due to migration towards urban areas.

    It urged the State party to put an end to the practice of recruiting children into the Paraguayan armed forces and national police; to punish those involved in forcible recruitment; and to investigate all cases of ill-treatment and death of conscripts and suspend from duty the officials implicated in such incidents.

    The Committee expressed its deep concern at the increasing number of children who were exploited economically, in particular those under 14 years of age; and it recommended that the State party continue to enforce and strengthen its legislation protecting working children.

    Cape Verde

    The Committee welcomed the many improvements in respect for children's rights and the situation of children within Cape Verde over the last two decades; and it noted the very positive aims of education within the State party's national education curriculum and the establishment of a teacher training institute.

    Although the Committee noted the difficult economic conditions within the State party and the situation of poverty confronted by a large proportion of the population, it was concerned that the Constitution did not include provisions prohibiting discrimination against children with disabilities and that discrimination against women, which may have an impact on their children, remained de facto commonplace.

    Noting with concern that corporal punishment was widely practised in the home and in schools, the Committee recommended that the State party take steps to end its practice and provide training and information on alternative forms of discipline, and ensure that those were administered in a manner consistent with the child's human dignity.

    The Committee was concerned at incidents of abuse, including sexual abuse and incest, and the mistreatment of children in the family; and at the incidence of domestic violence, which had a negative impact on children; it recommended that the State party monitor and record incidents involving children, including violence against women in the family.

    While noting the significant progress made, the Committee remained concerned about health problems among children such as the death of infants and children caused by diarrhoeal diseases, respiratory infections and malnutrition; and recommended that efforts to improve access to health care be pursued and strengthened.

    The Committee also recommended that the State party ensure that its anti-poverty programme take into consideration children's rights in the context of an adequate standard of living; and develop programmes toward major improvements in the social security system, housing conditions of children, in home sanitation facilities and in access to clean drinking water.

    The Committee recommended that the State party strengthen its efforts to address sexual violence and exploitation of children, including prostitution, through the judicial system and the media and through information campaigns, ensuring the protection of children's rights to privacy and other relevant concerns.

    General Discussion on ‘Violence against Children, Within Family and in Schools’

    The Committee adopted recommendations following its day of discussion on the theme of "violence against children within the family and in schools". It recommended, among other things, that an alternative vision of a school and a family where the rights and dignity of all were respected, including children, parents and teachers, should guide all actions on the issue of violence against children. The main strategy should be to galvanize actions around that vision rather than using punitive measures. In that vision, relations between and among children and parents or teachers were mutually respectful and the safety and security of all was promoted. It recommended that the Secretary-General be requested, through the General Assembly, to conduct an in-depth international study on violence against children.

    The Committee recommended that efforts be made by United Nations human rights mechanisms with a mandate to consider individual complaints concerning violations of human rights to identify ways to respond more effectively to individual complaints concerning violence against children, including violence within the family and in the schools.

    It encouraged the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize a special workshop for all relevant treaty bodies and special procedures, involving UN bodies and agencies, regional human rights mechanisms and relevant non-governmental organizations, to examine, among other things, the possible need for either an optional protocol to the Convention to establish a procedure for individual complaints, or the establishment of a new "special procedure" of the Commission on Human Rights.

    The Committee also recommended that urgent attention be given to ensuring the establishment and effective functioning of systems to report and to investigate cases of suspected ill-treatment of children within the family and in schools.

    Convention on Rights of Child

    The General Assembly adopted the Convention unanimously on 10 November 1989, 30 years after the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of the Child. The Convention makes States which accept it legally accountable for their actions towards children. Work on its drafting began in 1979 -- the International Year of the Child -- at the Commission on Human Rights.

    The Convention was opened for signature on 26 January 1990. That day, 61 countries signed it, a record first-day response. It entered into force just seven months later, on 2 September 1990.

    Ratifying the Convention entails reviewing national legislation to make sure it is in line with the provisions of the treaty. The Convention stipulates, among other things, that: every child had the right to life, and States shall ensure to the maximum child survival and development; every child has the right to a name and nationality from birth; and, when courts, welfare institutions or administrative authorities deal with children, the child's best interests shall be a primary consideration. The Convention recognizes the right of children to be heard.

    Furthermore, States shall ensure that each child enjoys full rights without discrimination or distinctions of any kind; that children should not be separated from their parents, unless by competent authorities for their well-being; States should facilitate reunification of families by permitting travel into, or out of, their territories, and States shall protect children from physical or mental harm and neglect, including sexual abuse or exploitation.

    Also according to the Convention, disabled children shall have the right to special treatment, education and care; primary education shall be free and compulsory and discipline in school should respect the child's dignity; capital punishment or life imprisonment shall not be imposed for crimes committed before the age of 18; no child under 15 should take any part in hostilities and children exposed to armed conflict shall receive special protection; and children of minority and indigenous populations shall freely enjoy their own culture, religion and language.

    Committee Membership

    The Convention requires that the members of the Committee have a high moral standing and recognized competence in the field of children's rights. The following experts, nominated by the States parties to serve in their personal capacity, have been elected to the Committee: Ibrahim Abdul Aziz Al-Sheddi (Saudi Arabia), Ghalia Mohd Bin Hmad Al-Thani (Qatar), Jacob Egbert Doek (Netherlands), Saisuree Chutikul (Thailand), Luigi Citarella (Italy), Amina Hamza El Guindi (Egypt), Judith Karp (Israel), Awa N'Deye Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso), Marilia Sardenberg (Brazil), and Elizabeth Tigerstedt-Tahtela (Finland).

    The Chairperson is Mr. Doek. Vice Chairpersons are Mrs. El Guindi, Mrs. Ouedraogo, and Mrs. Sardenberg. Mrs. Karp is Rapporteur.

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