Press Releases

    HR/4853
         6 June 2005

    Committee on Rights of Child Concludes Thirty-Ninth Session

    Adopts Conclusions on Reports From Saint Lucia, Philippines, Yemen, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nepal, Ecuador, Norway, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Costa Rica

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 3 June (UN Information Service) -- The Committee on the Rights of the Child concluded today its thirty-ninth session and issued its conclusions and recommendations on the situation of children in Saint Lucia, the Philippines, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nepal, Ecuador, Norway, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Yemen whose reports on efforts to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child were considered during the session.

    The conclusions and recommendations were contained in the Committee’s final report for the three-week session, which was adopted today by the 18-member Committee.  

    Concerning the initial report of Saint Lucia, the Committee welcomed the establishment of the legislative and monitoring Committee mandated to examine and monitor the extent to which existing laws, policies and services were matching the needs of children. The Committee strongly recommended that the State party review the Civil Code of Saint Lucia 1957 and that it ensure adequate protection of the rights of a separated parent and/or child.  It further recommended that the State party abolish provisions which allowed the imposition of a life sentence on children age 16 or 17 at the time of the commitment of the crime.

    After reviewing the second periodic report of the Philippines, the Committee took note of the adoption of several laws aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of children, among them the Anti-Violence against Women and Their Children Act of 2004. The Committee urged the State party to take all necessary steps to prevent the execution of children sentenced to a death penalty and to replace their death sentences with sanctions which were in compliance with the Convention and urged the State party to continue its peace efforts with armed rebel movements and to urge them to immediately stop the recruitment for and involvement of children in armed conflicts.

    Concerning the initial report of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Committee noted with appreciation, among other things, the adoption of the Action Plan for Children 2002-2010 and the establishment of the Council for Children of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It recommended that the State party strengthen its administrative and judicial measures to prevent and eliminate de facto discrimination against children, in particular children with disabilities, Roma children and children belonging to ethnic and/or religious minorities or other nationalities. The Committee also recommended that the State party continue its efforts aimed at the safe return of displaced and refugee children and their parents.

    After reviewing the second periodic report of Nepal, the Committee welcomed the agreement entered into by the State party with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in April 2005, providing for the establishment of an OHCHR Office in Nepal. The Committee noted the extremely negative impact of the armed conflict between the State party and the Communist Party of Nepal (the Maoists) on children in Nepal, and emphasized the full responsibility of the State party. It urged the Maoists to respect child rights within the areas under which they operated.

    On the combined second and third periodic reports of Ecuador, the Committee noted with appreciation the initiative taken by the State party to reform its laws relating to children and in particular the adoption of the Childhood and Adolescence Code in 2003. The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party effectively implement its domestic legislation and programmes to progressively eradicate child labour with the active participation of working children, after having noted that there was a high number of children between the age of 5 and 15 working in the State, and that some 4,000 were involved in mining work.

    After considering the third periodic report of Norway, the Committee welcomed a number of positive developments in the reporting period, including the overall progress in implementing the Convention and the incorporation of the Convention into domestic law in 2003. The Committee was concerned that the best interests of the child were not adequately taken into consideration in cases where foreign nationals who had children in Norway were permanently deported as a consequence of having committed a serious criminal offence. The Committee also reviewed the initial report of Norway on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

    In its concluding observations on the second periodic report of Mongolia, the Committee noted with appreciation the State party's continuous efforts to emphasize the importance of the rights and status of children by declaring several thematic years, such as the Year of the Child in 1997 and by organizing the National Summit on Children in 2004. The Committee was concerned about the hazardous situation of children increasingly involved and exploited in traditional horse racing and recommended that the State party ensure the full implementation of the child labour provisions, including prohibition against employing children in harmful or hazardous work, and the effective prevention of child labour.

    With regard to the third periodic report of Nicaragua, the Committee welcomed the creation of the National Council for the Comprehensive Care and Protection of Children and Adolescents which was responsible for formulating and coordinating implementation of the national policy for children. Among other things, the Committee expressed its concern that indigenous communities still suffered from institutional neglect, historic abandonment and indiscriminate pillaging of natural resources, especially in the Caribbean region. It recommended that the State party pursue measures to effectively address the gap in life opportunities of indigenous children.

    With respect to the third periodic report of Costa Rica, the Committee welcomed the measures taken by the State party to ensure compatibility between the Convention and domestic law through the enactment of a set of laws and amendments of existing legislation. The Committee encouraged the State party to continue to pay due attention to the needs of indigenous people and recommended that the State take appropriate measures to substantially increase their level of education and standard of living. It remained concerned at the large number of children between the age of 5 and 17 who worked in the "informal" labour market and had consequently been excluded from the educational system, in particular in rural areas.

    After considering the third periodic report of Yemen, the Committee, among other things, welcomed the adoption of the Child Act of 2002 which seriously attempted to cover the provisions of the Convention. The Committee, among other things, was concerned at the very low minimum age of criminal responsibility (7 years) and other shortcomings in the juvenile justice system. It recommended that the State party ensure the full implementation of juvenile justice standards and raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to an internationally acceptable level.

    During the course of the session, the Committee also adopted a decision on the consideration of reports under the two Optional Protocols of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The 18-member Committee also adopted its General Comment No. 6 on the treatment of unaccompanied and separated children outside their country of origin.

    The Committee's next session will be held from 12 to 30 September 2005 at the Palais Wilson in Geneva. Scheduled for consideration are reports of Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Algeria, Uganda, China, Saudi Arabia, Finland, Denmark and the Russian Federation.

    Final Observations and Recommendations on Reports Presented

    Saint Lucia

    Concerning the initial report of Saint Lucia, the Committee welcomed the establishment of the legislative and monitoring Committee mandated to examine and monitor the extent to which existing laws, policies and services matched the needs of children, especially within the context of child protection. The Committee also noted the adoption of the Education Act in 1991 which made provision for the promotion of universal access to primary and secondary education services to children between the ages of 5 and 15 years and the adoption of the Prevention of Misuse Drug Act in 1988 and its Amendment of 1993 which promoted "drug-free zone" in schools.

    While noting the establishment of a Committee in 1991 to develop a National Plan of Action for the Survival, Protection and Development of Children, the Committee urged the State party to strengthen its efforts to develop and implement a comprehensive national plan of action for the full implementation of the Convention, covering all areas of the Convention. The Committee recommended that the State party change its laws to ensure that they provided all persons under 18 with the same protection and guarantees, among other things in the area of child protection, child maintenance and juvenile justice. The Committee was concerned that corporal punishment was widely practiced as a highly favoured method of punishment and recommended that the State party amend its legislation to explicitly prohibit corporal punishment in the family, schools and institutions.

    The Committee strongly recommended that the State party review the Civil Code of Saint Lucia 1957 and that it ensure adequate protection of the rights of a separated parent and/or child. It also recommended that the child's views as well as best interests were taken into account in the final decisions of custody in cases of parental separation. The Committee further recommended that the State party adopt and implement as a matter of priority the draft Protocol for the Management of Child Abuse and Neglect in Saint Lucia in order to ensure, among other things, the establishment of an effective reporting and referral system for cases of child abuse and neglect and programmes for psychological and physical recovery and social reintegration for victims of sexual abuse and other child victims of abuse, neglect, ill-treatment violence or exploitation.

    The Committee recommended that the State party adopt a comprehensive policy for children with disabilities and encouraged the integration of children with disabilities into the regular educational system and their inclusion into society. As to education, it recommended that the State party adopt effective measures to include all children in primary education and to urgently decrease the dropout rates for children, particularly for boys and to continue its efforts to increase the number of children entering secondary schools though provisions of more classrooms. Among other things, the Committee recommended that the State party adopt legislative measures to ensure protection from sexual abuse and exploitation for both boys and girls; and that the State party abolish provisions which allowed the imposition of a life sentence on children age 16 or 17 at the time of the commitment of the crime.

    Philippines

    After reviewing the second periodic report of the Philippines, the Committee took note of the adoption of several laws aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of children, among them: the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, which institutes policies to eliminate trafficking in persons, especially women and children; the Republic Act of 2003, which amends the Special Protection of Children against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act providing for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour and affording stronger protection for the working child; the Anti-Violence against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, which defines violence against women and their children, and other legal or administrative measures to promote the implementation of the Convention, such as the ratification of international conventions and protocols referred to throughout the concluding observations.

    The Committee urged the State party to take all necessary steps to prevent the execution of children sentenced to a death penalty and to replace their death sentences with sanctions which were in compliance with the Convention and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (the Beijing Rules). The Committee also called for the effective implementation of the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act and recommended that the State party take all necessary measures to ensure that overseas Filipino workers, equally women and men, were able to meet their parental responsibilities. It recommended that the State make use -- in the negotiations of the Free Trade Agreement -- of all the flexibilities reaffirmed by the Doha Declaration and the mechanisms at its disposal to ensure access to affordable medicines in particular for the poor and most vulnerable children and their parents.

    While noting with concern the high number of children living in households below the national poverty line and the wide disparities in wealth between different regions, the Committee recommended that the State party take urgent efforts to raise the standard of living among its rural and urban population living in poverty, among other things, through implementing poverty reduction strategy and community development, including the participation of children. The Committee recommended that the State party urgently take all necessary measures to ensure universal and free primary education for all and to pay particular attention to the schooling opportunities in the most remote barangays and to the educational needs of children belonging to vulnerable groups, such as children living in poverty, indigenous children, child labourers and children in armed conflict.

    The Committee urged the State party to continue its peace efforts with armed rebel movements to urge them to immediately stop the recruitment for and involvement of children in armed conflicts, and to ensure protection of all children who have been involved in armed conflict. The Committee also reiterated its grave concern at the high number of children living in the streets and their special vulnerability to various forms of violence and abuse, and recommended that the State develop a comprehensive strategy with active participation of street children, non-governmental organizations and other relevant professionals to address the high number of street children, with the aim of reducing and preventing this phenomenon.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina

    Concerning the initial report of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Committee noted with appreciation, among other things, the Law on the Protection of National Minorities, adopted in April 2003, as well as the establishment of the Roma Committee; the adoption by the Council of Ministers of a National Plan of Action to combat trafficking in 2001; the 2003 Framework Law on Primary and Secondary Education; the adoption of the Action Plan for Children 2002-2010 and the establishment of the Council for Children of Bosnia and Herzegovina; and the enactment of the Law on the Protection of Mentally Disabled Persons. The Committee also welcomed the ratification of the main human rights treaties, including the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child; ILO Convention No. 138 concerning the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment; and ILO Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour.

    The Committee recommended that the State party implement effectively the Action Plan for Children 2002-2010, which should aim at the realization of the principles and provisions of the Convention. It also recommended that the State party strengthen its administrative and judicial measures to prevent and eliminate de facto discrimination against children, in particular children with disabilities, Roma children and children belonging to ethnic and/or religious minorities or other nationalities. The Committee urged the State party to continue and strengthen, as a matter of priority, its efforts to establish a system ensuring the registration of all children born within its territory and of all children born abroad to parents who were citizens of the State and to take specific steps to ensure the registration of Roma children.

    The Committee further recommended that the State party make sure that the legislative measures currently underway – namely the new Family Law and the new Law on Protection from Domestic Violence - were expeditiously adopted and adequately implemented in both Entities. The Committee expressed serious concern that some 90 per cent of Roma had no health insurance and recommended, among other things, that the State undertake necessary measures to ensure that all children enjoyed the same access and quality of health services, with special attention to children belonging to vulnerable groups, especially Roma. The Committee also recommended that the State improve the efficiency of the educational system, paying particular attention to the high drop out rates.

    While noting that a significant number of refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina remained in the region (around 100,000 living in Serbia and Montenegro and Croatia and 50,000 living elsewhere) and that a further 314,000 were still displaced within the country, the Committee recommended that the State party continue its efforts aimed at the safe return of displaced and refugee children and their parents and to prevent, as much as possible, violent attacks against returnees and displaced persons and/or their property and to address the special needs and rights of displaced and refugee children. The Committee also recommended that the State party continue carrying out mines-awareness campaigns and that it extend the psychological and social assistance for children who have been affected by the explosion of mines and other consequences of the armed conflict.

    Nepal

    After reviewing the second periodic report of Nepal, the Committee noted the adoption of the laws aimed at enhancing the implementation of the Convention including the Child Labour Act in 2000, which defined hazardous work and prohibited the employment of children under the age of 16; and the Kamaiya Prohibition Act in 2002, which codified the emancipation of bonded labourers, penalized employers engaged in Kamaiya labour practices, and established governmental Kamaiya relief funds. Furthermore, the Committee welcomed the agreement entered into by the State party with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in April 2005, providing for the establishment of an OHCHR Office in Nepal that would "monitor the observance of human rights and international humanitarian law, bearing in mind the climate of violence and the internal armed conflict in the country".

    The Committee noted the extremely negative impact of the armed conflict between the State party and the Communist Party of Nepal (the Maoists) on children in Nepal, and that it had created conditions in which even a minimal implementation of the Convention was difficult. It was also extremely concerned at the large-scale bombing, destruction and closing of schools by Maoists insurgents which was a violation of the fundamental rights to education of children. The Committee emphasized the full responsibility of the State party, and urged the Maoists to respect child rights within the areas under which they operated. The Committee was also deeply concerned that an increasing number of families and children were facing the risks of family disintegration and separation as a consequence of the current armed conflict in the State party and recommended that the State undertake effective measures for the reunification of separated children, by implementing programmes for the reinforcement of existing structures such as the extended family.

    The Committee recommended that the State party, as a matter of urgency, take all necessary measures to eradicate all traditional practices harmful to the physical and psychological well-being of children, by strengthening awareness-raising programmes and further recommended that the State party adopt legislation prohibiting such practices. The Committee also recommended that the State seek to ensure, as a matter of priority, that all internally displaced, refugee and asylum seeking children and their families had access to health and education services; that it develop a comprehensive policy and programme for implementing the rights of children who had been affected by conflict; and that it criminalize abduction, recruitment and use of children for military purposes by any armed forces or armed group.  

    The Committee also recommended that the State party strengthen the enforcement of the existing legislation and policies to eradicate the practice of bonded labour by children and recommended that the State party review its legislation and policies to ensure the full implementation of juvenile justice standards. It also recommended that the State expedite the construction of separate facilities and separate cells in detention facilities for persons below 18 to ensure that they exist in all districts and to ensure that persons under 18 were not held accountable, detained or prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws.  

    Ecuador

    On the combined second and third periodic reports of Ecuador, the Committee noted with appreciation the initiative taken by the State party to reform its laws relating to children and in particular the adoption of the Childhood and Adolescence Code in 2003 which embodied the rights of the child proclaimed in the Ecuadorian Constitution and in the main international conventions. The Committee also welcomed the establishment of the Observatory on the Rights of the Child and Young Persons in 2002 which collected analysis and disseminated information on the status of compliance with rights of children and adolescents. Moreover, it welcomed the establishment of the Special Juvenile Justice system in accordance with the new Childhood and Adolescence Code.

    The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party consider establishing a specific separate department dealing with children's rights and urged the State to increase its budget allocations for the promotion and implementation of the rights of children. The Committee also recommended that the State party establish one minimum age for marriage for both boys and girls at an internationally acceptable level. Moreover, the Committee was particularly concerned about the high number of children who were victims of violence and was further concerned at the rate of suicide, sexual abuse against girls and boys and the insufficient measures undertaken to prevent these problems. The Committee urged the State party to investigate the root causes of such problems and to undertake effective measures to address them.

    The Committee recommended that the State party pay particular attention to adolescent health and to undertake measures to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancies, especially through reproductive health education and child-sensitive counselling services, to undertake effective measures to prevent sexually transmitted infections and to combat drug use and alcohol abuse by children. The Committee also recommended that the State increase its efforts to provide vulnerable and marginalized children, including indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian children, with material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.

    The Committee, among other things, recommended that the State party continue to strengthen its asylum policy, in particular to adopt legislative measures governing the treatment of unaccompanied and separated children; to strengthen its efforts to secure full access to all refugee and asylum seeking children to education, health and other services; and to effectively implement its domestic legislation and programmes to progressively eradicate child labour with the active participation of working children, after having noted that there was a high number of children between the age of 5 and 15 working in the State, and that some 4,000 were involved in mining work. Lastly, the Committee recommended that the State party take all necessary measures to protect the rights of indigenous children against discrimination and to guarantee their enjoyment of the rights enshrined in domestic law and in the Convention.

    Norway

    After considering the third periodic report of Norway, the Committee welcomed a number of positive developments in the reporting period, including the overall progress in implementing the Convention; the incorporation of the Convention into domestic law in 2003; the amendment of the penal code in April 2003 to specifically criminalize trafficking in persons; and the ongoing and outstanding commitment of the State party to international assistance and cooperation, in particular in the area of education. The Committee also welcomed the implementation of a number of programmes and national plans of action to strengthen the protection of the rights of the child including the 2001 Plan of Action for Children and the Government's programme to combat female genital mutilation.

    The Committee noted with regret that some of the concerns it expressed and the recommendations it made after its consideration of the State party's second periodic report had not been sufficiently addressed, among other things, those related to training and education and mental health services, and urged the State to make every effort to address the previous recommendations that had been only partly implemented. While noting that the Children's Ombudsperson faced limitations in his activities due to his apparent dependence on the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs, the Committee recommended that the State party further enhance the independence of the Children's Ombudsperson. Concern was also expressed about the discrimination facing some children in schools and society on the grounds of their religious or ethnic backgrounds.

    The Committee was concerned that the best interests of the child were not adequately taken into consideration in cases where foreign nationals who had children in Norway were permanently deported as a consequence of having committed a serious criminal offence and at the number of children who had been removed from their families and lived in foster homes or other institutions. It recommended that the State party take measures to address the causes of the rising number of children who were removed from their families. The Committee was also concerned that children with disabilities were limited in their participation in cultural and recreational activities and about the high incidence of eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa.

    The Committee remained deeply concerned at the high rate of suicide among adolescents, which accounted for about one out of every four deaths among young women and men. It also expressed its concern about the large number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who disappeared from reception centres in the State party. It was particularly concerned that these children were vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Among other things, the Committee was concerned about the large number of children who suffered as a result of their parents' drug abuse; at the incidence of sexual abuse of children and young people in the State party; and that trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation remained a problem in the State party.

    In considering the initial report of Norway on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Committee welcomed a number of measures taken by the State to implement and strengthen the protection of the rights covered by the Optional Protocol, including the 2003-2005 National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking. It also noted with satisfaction the incorporation of the Protocol into Norwegian Law by the Human Rights Act. The Committee was, however, concerned that the Penal Code defined children as persons "who are or appear to be under 18 years of age", as this definition could potentially exclude some children who appeared to be older than 18 years, from legal protection. Among other things, it encouraged the State party to consider adopting specific legislation on the obligations of Internet service providers in relation to child pornography on the Internet.

    Mongolia

    In its concluding observations on the second periodic report of Mongolia, the Committee took note of the adoption of laws aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of the child such as the adoption, in 1996, of the Law on Protection of Child Rights which provided a legal framework for actions concerning special protection of children; the adoption, in 1999, of the Family Law which stipulated, among other things, the parental responsibilities, adoption, custody and alimony; and the adoption, in 2004, of the Law against Domestic Violence with the aim of combating and preventing domestic violence and protecting the human rights of victims, including child victims. With regard to the rights and status of children in Mongolia, the Committee noted with appreciation the State party's continuous efforts to emphasize the importance of this issue by declaring several thematic years, such as the Year of the Child in 1997, the Year for the Development of Children in 2000, and by organizing the National Summit on Children in 2004.

    After having expressed its concern at the increasing number of children in institutional care, the Committee recommended that the State party take immediate preventive measures to avoid separation of children from their family environment, to reduce the number of children living in institutions and to provide appropriate assistance and support services to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities. The Committee also recommended that the State take all appropriate measures to address and prevent domestic violence by, among other things, implementing the Law against Domestic Violence, adopted in May 2004, and that it ensure the full protection of children against this type of violence. Moreover, the Committee urged the State party to initiate a plan and a comprehensive national policy for children with disabilities and to allocate necessary financial and human resources to implement the plan and to prevent and prohibit all forms of discrimination against children with disabilities.

    The Committee was deeply concerned at the persistent high rate of poverty in the State party and noted that as a consequence of increasing migration from rural areas poverty was becoming more urbanized and this change had created a range of new social issues, such as children living on the streets. It that connection, it recommended that the State party continue to implement, as a matter of high priority, national plans and programmes for poverty reduction, paying particular attention to economically disadvantaged families. The Committee was also concerned about the hazardous situation of children increasingly involved and exploited in traditional horse racing and was particularly concerned that children as young as 8 were involved in this sport. In that regard, it recommended that the State party ensure the full implementation of the child labour provisions, including prohibition against employing children in harmful or hazardous work, and the effective prevention of child labour.

    The Committee also recommended that the State party adopt a comprehensive national strategy to address the situation of street children, paying particular attention to the most vulnerable groups, to provide these children with adequate assistance, and to develop and adopt a comprehensive national policy to prevent and combat sexual exploitation and trafficking in children. Furthermore, it recommended that the State develop and implement a comprehensive national programme on administration of juvenile justice, including establishment of juvenile courts endowed with appropriately trained professional personnel covering all aimags of the country.

    Nicaragua

    With regard to the third periodic report of Nicaragua, the Committee welcomed the creation of the National Council for the Comprehensive Care and Protection of Children and Adolescents which was responsible for formulating and coordinating implementation of the national policy for children; the entry into force of a new Criminal Procedure Code in 2002; the establishment of a Special Ombudsman Office for Children in 2000; and the National Plan of Action 2002-2011 for children and adolescents. The Committee also welcomed the ratification by the State party of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention; the Inter-American Convention on the Return of Children and the Protocol to the American Convention to abolish the death penalty.  

    The Committee remained concerned that children were in general not considered and treated as subjects of rights; at the current discrepancies between the minimum legal age for marriage of boys and girls; and that the country's adult-centred culture and the high poverty levels concentrated in rural, indigenous and Caribbean areas prevented the full enjoyment of rights by children belonging to vulnerable groups, such as children with disabilities, indigenous children and children living in rural or remote areas. It was also concerned by allegations of instances of ill-treatment of children by law-enforcement officials, especially in police establishments.

    The Committee noted with concern the difficulties that some parents and families encountered -- such as unemployment, malnutrition and lack of adequate housing -- which may cause abandonment or abuse resulting in placement of children in institutions or in adoption. The Committee recommended that the State party undertake -- in case where a child was deprived of her/his family environment – maximum efforts to return the child to the family of origin. Moreover, the Committee was concerned that domestic violence and abuses on children was an increasing phenomenon in the society and that corporal punishment was still widely accepted in the society. The Committee was also extremely concerned about the persistence of a high degree of poverty in the State party, especially in the Caribbean/Atlantic region and in rural areas and that only about two-thirds of the population had access to clean drinking water and one out of every three children had some degree of chronic malnutrition.

    The Committee was also concerned about the high number of families migrating abroad and the possible negative consequences on the full enjoyment by children of their rights resulting from this phenomenon. The Committee was further concerned at the growing number of street children living in the State party, especially in Managua, as well as at the increasing emergence of street youth gangs (pandillas) in the country, of which over 100 were believed to operate in the capital Managua. Among other things, the Committee expressed its concern at the fact that no special places for deprivation of liberty existed for persons below 18 in conflict with the law and that indigenous communities still suffered from institutional neglect, historic abandonment and indiscriminate pillaging of natural resources, especially in the Caribbean region. In that regard, it recommended that the State party pursue measures to effectively address the gap in life opportunities of indigenous children.

    Costa Rica

    With respect to the third periodic report of Costa Rica, the Committee welcomed the measures taken by the State party to ensure compatibility between the Convention and domestic law through the enactment of a set of laws and amendments of existing legislation. It also welcomed the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. The Committee further welcomed the launching of the National Agenda for Children and Adolescents 2000-2010.

    The Committee encouraged the State party to continue to pay due attention to the needs of indigenous people and recommended that the State take appropriate measures to substantially increase their level of education and standard of living. The Committee was concerned at the fact that classes of Catholicism were part of the curriculum, which was discriminatory for non-catholic children and recommended that the State party devise a curriculum that would ensure that the child's freedom of religion could be fully realized in the educational system without any discrimination. The Committee was also concerned that the use of torture, in particular on children, was still not formally prohibited and criminalized in the Penal Code. Moreover, the Committee reiterated its recommendation that the State party incorporate the prohibition of corporal punishment in its legislation.

    The Committee remained concerned that the practice of private or direct adoption which resulted in cases of trafficking was still not effectively prohibited. Among other things, it recommended that the State party strengthen its efforts to combat child abuse and neglect, in particular by actively supporting helplines such as 911 and Linea Cuenta Conmigo; that it take all appropriate measures to ensure access to basic health care to all children and adolescents at the country level; and recommended that professional and administrative staff were adequately trained in order to improve their interaction with teenage mothers.

    The Committee also remained concerned at the large number of children between the age of 5 and 17 who worked in the "informal" labour market and had consequently been excluded from the educational system, in particular in rural areas. It was also concerned by the information received by the Committee whereby the number of children victims of sexual exploitation might be increasing, in particular among street children. Furthermore, the Committee regretted the lack of information on street children in the State party's report, while the occurrence of children living in the street appeared to be widespread. It was concerned by the fact that, as indicated by the State party, a high number of street children were addicted to drugs and were victims of sexual exploitation. Lastly, the Committee remained concerned at the insufficient number of judges specialized in the rights of the child and at the allegations of ill-treatment of children during detention.

    Yemen

    After considering the third periodic report of Yemen, the Committee, among other things, welcomed the adoption of the Child Act of 2002 which seriously attempted to cover the provisions of the Convention; noted with appreciation the promulgation of a Ministerial Decree establishing specialist teams to produce curricula for pre-school education that incorporated various principles relating to children's rights; noted with appreciation the Republican Decree of 2000 concerning the Implementing Regulations Juveniles Act; and welcomed the establishment of the Ministry of Human Rights.

    The Committee was concerned about the legislative inconsistency concerning the definition of a child and in particular at the difference between age of majority, 18 years and age of maturity, 15 years. It was also deeply concerned at the persistence of discriminatory social attitudes against girls and at the disparities in the enjoyment of rights and at the social discrimination experienced by children belonging to the most vulnerable groups. While having welcomed the care for children in need of alternative care such as Kafalah (informal and formal), it remained concerned about the quality of care children received in such orphanages, particularly those which were very large.  Moreover, the Committee was deeply concerned at the health situation in Yemen and at the fact that only 50 per cent of the population had access to health services.  

    The Committee reiterated its concern at the existence of harmful traditional practices in certain regions of the State party, including female genital mutilation, early marriages and deprivation of education. In that connection, it recommended that the State party, as a matter of urgency, undertake all necessary measures to eradicate harmful traditional practices, affecting more particularly the girl child, which were harmful to the physical and psychological well-being of children.

    The Committee remained deeply concerned that many child labourers, notably children working as domestic servants, were very vulnerable to abuse, including sexual abuse, and completely lacked protection. It recommended that the State party continue to strengthen its efforts to eradicate child labour, in particular by addressing the root causes of economic exploitation through poverty eradication

    and access to education. Furthermore, the Committee was concerned at the very low minimum age of criminal responsibility (7 years) and other shortcomings in the juvenile justice system and recommended that the State party ensure the full implementation of juvenile justice standards and raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to an internationally acceptable level.

    General Comment on Treatment of Unaccompanied and Separated Children Outside their Country of Origin

    In its General Comment No. 6, the Committee outlined the legal obligations of State parties for all unaccompanied or separated children in their territory and measures for their implementation. Among other things, it stated that these obligations could not be arbitrarily and unilaterally curtailed either by excluding zones or areas from a State's territory or by defining particular zones or areas as not, or only partly, under the jurisdiction of the State. Moreover, State obligations under the Convention applied within borders of a State, including with respect to children who came under the State's jurisdiction while attempting to enter the country's territory. Therefore, the enjoyment of rights stipulated in the Convention, the Comment indicated, were not limited to children who were citizens of a State party and must therefore, if not explicitly stated otherwise in the Convention, also be available to all children – including asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant children – irrespective of their nationality, immigration status or statelessness.

    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: Ghalia Mohd Bin Hamad Al-Thani (Qatar), Joyce Aluoch (Kenya), Alison Anderson (Jamaica); Jacob Egbert Doek (the Netherlands), Kamel Filali (Algeria), Moushira Khattab (Egypt), Hatem Kotrane (Tunisia), Lothar Friedrich Krappmann (Germany), Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea), Norberto Liwski (Argentina), Rosa Maria Ortiz (Paraguay), Awa N'Deye Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso), David Brent Parfitt (Canada), Awich Pollar (Uganda), Kamal Siddiqui (Bangladesh), Lucy Smith (Norway), Nevena Vuckovic-Sahovic (Serbia and Montenegro) and Jean Zermatten (Switzerland).

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