Every child has the right to grow to adulthood in health, peace and dignity. Young children are vulnerable and dependent on adults for their basic needs, such as food, health care and education. In many countries they are forced to fend for themselves, often at the cost of their full development and education. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has estimated that 9.2 million children under the age of five die every year, mostly of preventable causes; 101 million children, a majority of whom are girls, are not in primary school; and 148 million children in developing countries under the age of five are underweight due to malnutrition. Children are obviously affected by more universal statistics: approximately 884 million people lack access to safe water and only 62 per cent of the world’s population have access to adequate sanitation. UNICEF estimates that 4500 children die each day as a consequence of unsafe water and sanitation facilities. Child labour is another issue of concern - 158 million children between the ages of five and fourteen years are forced to work. Further, Human Rights Watch reports that children, in the ‘tens of thousands’, in approximately 15 countries, are actively participating in armed conflict.

Ensuring the rights of children to health, nutrition, education, and social, emotional and cognitive development is imperative for every country and entails obligations for every government. Ensuring that children enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms not only advances a more equitable society, but fosters a healthier, more literate and, in due course, a more productive population. Clearly, children’s rights are closely tied to women’s rights; even before being born a child’s survival and development is dependent on the mother’s health and opportunities. Women are still primary care-givers for children, so ensuring women’s rights is positively linked to children’s enjoyment of human rights.



A. Standards

In 1924, the League of Nations adopted a Declaration on the Rights of the Child (Declaration of Geneva), containing five basic principles reflecting the clear consensus that children were in need of special protection. In 1959, the UNGA unanimously adopted another more elaborate Declaration on the Rights of the Child, stating in the preamble that ‘the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth’.

Serious work on drafting a convention on the rights of the child began in the final years of the 1970s, resulting in the UNGA adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on 20 November 1989. The Convention entered into force on 2 September 1990 and a few years later the majority of the world’s states had ratified it. As of February 2009, 193 states had ratified the Convention, making the CRC the most universally accepted human rights treaty ever drafted. The United States and Somalia are the only UN members which are parties to the Convention.

The Convention is meant to be all encompassing and sets out civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights for ‘every human being below the age of eighteen years, unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier’ (Article 1). Four general principles have guided the authors of the Convention: 

  •  The principle of non-discrimination (Article 2);
  •  The best interests of the child (Article 3);
  •  The right to life, survival and development (Article 6); and
  •  Respect for the views of the child (Article 12). 

Underpinning the CRC are three core concepts; protection, provision and participation: a) protection, against, e.g., violence, abuse, neglect, maltreatment or exploitation (Article 19); b) provision of, e.g., name and nationality (Article 7), social security, adequate standard of living and education (Articles 26 to 28); c) participation through the right of a child to express its views, to freedom of thought and to freedom of association (Articles 12 to 15).

The CRC contains several rights which are also included in other international instruments, but Article 41 provides an explicit ‘most favourable conditions clause’, stating that nothing in the CRC shall affect any provisions which are more conducive to the realisation of the rights of the child and which may be contained in the law of a state party or international law in force in that state (Article 41). While the Convention sets out many rights already proclaimed in other instruments such as the ICCPR (Articles 23(4) and 24) and ICESCR (Article 10(3)), it is the first instrument to specifically grant children rights and protection as autonomous human beings. The value added by the CRC lies mainly in that:

  • The general rights formulated in earlier Conventions and the UDHR have been reformulated with a special focus on the rights and needs of the child. Other rights only applicable to children are elaborated, such as the right to adoption, education and contact with parents.
  •  New elements have been included, such as the provisions regarding parental guidance and regarding international co-operation in the field of handicapped children.
  •  The CRC covers children in difficult circumstances, such as the separation from parents; abuse and neglect; disabled and refugee children; indigenous children and children belonging to minorities; sale, trafficking and abduction of children; deprivation of liberty; and children in armed conflict. 

Some international instruments contain more protective clauses than the CRC. For instance, Article 32 CRC regarding child labour does not explicitly define a minimum age for admission to employment. ILO 138 stipulates that the minimum age for admission to employment or work shall not be less than 15 years and that developing countries may initially specify a minimum age of 14 years. For employment under specified circumstances (e.g., in the case of health hazards), the minimum age is 18 years in ILO 138. The CRC generally sets out the minimum age of 18 years (Article 1) so does ILO 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (1999), which defines persons younger than 18 as children (Article 2).

Similarly, while the CRC forbids recruitment of children below 15 years for the armed forces, Article 77 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 affords superior protection as regards recruitment of children between 15 and 17 years of age. Here, Article 41 (‘most favourable treatment’) applies for those states which are parties to more favourable international instruments. Moreover, states may make declarations when ratifying the CRC, expressing their commitment to apply more protective standards; e.g., by not recruiting children under 18 years of age into the armed forces.

Two Optional Protocols to the CRC were adopted by the UNGA in 2000. The first Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict aims at, inter alia, raising the minimum age of individuals taking part in armed conflict to 18 and includes a unique provision regulating the acts of non-state actors, stipulating that non-state forces should not recruit persons under 18. The second Protocol to the CRC on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography stipulates, inter alia, that states have to ensure that certain acts against children are criminalised, and that states are obliged to prosecute or extradite offenders under their jurisdiction.

Relevant standards in the regional systems for the protection of children’s rights include the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990), setting out in Article 18(3) that ‘the State shall [?] ensure protection of the rights of the woman and the child as stipulated in international declarations and conventions’. The ACHR sets out the equal rights of children born in and out of wedlock (Article 17(5)) and that ‘every minor child has the right to measures of protection [?] on the part of his family, society, and the state’ (Article 19). Other relevant documents within the American context are, for instance, the Inter-American Convention on the International Return of Children (1989); the Inter-American Convention on Conflict of Laws Concerning the Adoption of Minors (1984); and the Inter-American Convention on International Traffic in Minors (1994). Within the European system the European Social Charter sets out special protection for children with regard to employment (Article 7) and the right of children and young persons to social, legal and economic protection (Article 17). Other important European Conventions are the European Convention on the Adoption of Children (1967, with a revised Convention opened for signature in December 2008); the European Convention on the Legal Status of Children born out of Wedlock (1975); the European Convention on the Exercise of Children’s

Rights (1996); and the European Convention on Contact concerning Children (2005). The European Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse was opened for signature in October 2007 (not in force as of February 2009). Finally, the ECHR, while not directly addressing children’s rights, affords broad protection of their civil and political rights. 


B. Supervision

The CRC establishes the Committee on the Rights of the Child to supervise the progress made by the states parties in achieving the realisation of their obligations under the Convention. The Committee is composed of 18 experts from fields such as international law, medicine, education and sociology, whose main task is to review reports submitted by states on actions they have taken to implement the Convention, as it has no competence to receive individual complaints. The Committee may convene Informal regional meetings with the collaboration of UNICEF, to get familiar with the different issues facing children in different regions, as well as establishing dialogues with NGOs and governments. Like other supervisory mechanisms, the Committee adopts General Comments for the interpretation of the rights contained in the CRC. To date, the Committee has adopted 11 General Comments. For example, General Comment 5 on general measures of implementation of the CRC; General Comment 6 on the treatment of unaccompanied and separated children from their country of origin; General Comment 8 on corporal, and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment; General Comment 9 on the rights of children with disabilities; and General Comment 10 on juvenile justice.

The Human Rights Committee, has also been active in the protection of children. The Committee has, for instance, found that by not investigating the disappearance of a minor, the state failed to provide the special measures of protection set out in the ICCPR (Laureano v. Peru). It has also ruled that the failure to recognise the legal standing of a grandmother in guardianship and visitation proceedings, as well as delay in legally establishing a child’s real name and issuing identity papers, entailed a violation of the special measures of protection of the Covenant (Monaco de Gallicchio and Vicario v. Argentina). The Committee has set out that the exceptional circumstances that limit the right to regular contact between children and both of their parents upon dissolution of a marriage generally does not include unilateral opposition of one parent (Hendriks v. The Netherlands). The failure of the state to ensure the right to permanent contact between a divorced parent and her children entailed an interference with the right to privacy (Fei v. Colombia). The deportation of parents from a country where a child has nationality and has grown up constitutes an arbitrary interference with the right to family, as well as a violation of the child’s right to special protection as a minor (Winata and Li v. Australia). The Committee has found that not segregating minors from adults in prison is a violation of the right to special protection under Article 24 (Thomas (Damien) v. Jamaica). A violation arose due to unreasonably long child custody proceedings between a parent and a state authority (attempting to place a child into foster care). To determine whether a delay is reasonable or unreasonable, domestic courts must weigh the age of the child at the centre of proceedings, the possible impact on the well-being of the child, and the overall outcome of the case (N.T. v. Canada). The Committee addresses juvenile justice in General Comment 32. The Committee considers a separate juvenile justice system the best way to safeguard the rights of minors in conflict with the law. Where possible, in the interests of rehabilitation, juveniles should be diverted into non-penal mechanisms (e.g., mediation) to avoid criminal sanctions that foster damaging, long-term consequences.

The European Court has expanded children’s rights jurisprudence significantly. Its case law touches on various aspects of the ECHR. The first decision on children’s rights was delivered in 1978, in Tyrer v. The United Kingdom. Judicial corporal punishment was at issue. A 15-year-old schoolboy was caned by order of a juvenile court after he assaulted a fellow student. The Court ruled that this amounted to degrading treatment in violation of Article 3 ECHR. Over the years the Court has been particularly concerned with fair trial guarantees. The cases of T v. The United Kingdom and V v. The United Kingdom are noteworthy. Both applicants were convicted in the infamous James Bulger’ case for the abduction and murder of a two-year-old boy. Both boys were ten years old when the murder took place but their hearing took the form of an adult criminal trial. Although steps were taken to aid their understanding of the proceedings (e.g., they sat in a raised dock for a better view, were given lengthy breaks and were constantly accompanied by an adult), the formal structure of an adult criminal trial, an intense media presence and the general conditions of the courtroom, meant that both applicants were denied the right to effectively participate in their own defence (Article 6). Both boys were sentenced to incarceration at ‘Her Majesty’s pleasure’ with a minimum gaol sentence (or ‘tariff’) fixed by the Home Secretary (an officer of executive government, i.e., not a member of the judiciary) in the interests of ‘retribution’ and ‘deterrence’. This undermined their rights to a fair and impartial hearing (Article 6). Further, the lawfulness of the Home Secretary’s decision was outside lawful review (in breach of Article 5). Recently, in Salduz v. Turkeythe European Court Grand Chamber held that minors must be accompanied by a lawyer during police interviews. A 17-year-old boy was convicted on terrorism charges largely founded on a confession to police. The Court stressed ‘the fundamental importance of providing access to a lawyer where the person in custody is a minor’, and concluded that even though the applicant had the opportunity to challenge the evidence against him at the trial and subsequently on appeal, the absence of a lawyer while he was in police custody irretrievably affected his defence rights.

A number of cases decided by the European Court relate to contact rights between parents and children, governed by Article 8, the right to privacy and family life. For instance, in cases where a parent has abducted a child from one state to another to avoid an adverse custody decision, both states concerned are obligated to act with ‘swiftness’ in returning the child to the other parent (see, e.g., Bajarami v. AlbaniaIosub Caras v. Romania, H. N. v. Poland and Monory v. Hungary and Romania). The Grand Chamber recently narrowede the state’s margin of appreciation when it comes to the expulsion of foreign children for juvenile offenses. In Maslov v. Austria an exclusion order from Austria was ordered against the applicant for numerous criminal offences. The applicant was a Bulgarian national that had come to Austria at the age of six. He had obtained a ‘settlement permit’ in Austria. His parents had gained Austrian citizenship. The applicant had no close ties with Bulgaria and little or no understanding of Bulgarian. Nevertheless, the exclusion order from Austria was for the duration of 10 years. The Grand Chamber found a violation on the basis of the applicant’s length of stay in Austria, his (and his parents’) linguistic and cultural ties, and the obligation on Austria to reintegrate juvenile offenders into society (and not simply expel them). Mubilanzila Mayeka and Kaniki Mitunga v. Belgium is an important authority for the proposition that states must exercise special care during the detention and deportation of minors.Discrimination against Roma children in the Czech education system was addressed in D.H. and Others v. The Czech Republic. Lastly, two 2008 cases from Finland demonstrate the vigilance of the Court when it comes to the concept of ‘child protection’. The applicant in Juppala v. Finland was a grandparent who raised a fear of child abuse with a doctor while her grandchild was having a bruise examined. The doctor referred the matter to child welfare. The child’s father was cleared of any wrongdoing and brought and succeeded in an action for defamation against the applicant. The Court was troubled by the use of defamation in this way. The Court was especially worried by the ‘chilling effect’ the decision could have on the reporting of child abuse. K.U. v. Finland is the second case. Here the Court dealt with the lack of criminal investigation into a breach of a 12-year-old’s internet privacy rights. An anonymous person had posted a fake advertisement with the applicant’s name, age, photo and telephone number (save for one incorrect digit) asking for an intimate relationship ‘to show him the way’. The police could not compel the service provider to reveal the identity of the advertisement’s creator. The Finnish legislature was deemed to be in breach of Article 8 for failing to put in place a legal framework capable of adequately balancing general privacy rights with the privacy rights of children. In D.H. v. The Czech Republic, the Grand Chamber ruled that indirect discrimination of Romani children within the Czech education system (testing and placement in special schools) constituted a breach of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination).

Within the Inter-American system, the Commission and the Court have dealt with several cases referring to children. In this regard, several cases deserve mention including the groundbreaking judgement in Villagrán Morales et al. v. Guatemala (seeStreet Children case below); Bulacio v. Argentina, which refers to a 17 year old who was detained arbitrarily and beaten so severely and died the day after he left detention as a consequence; the unlawful detention, torture and extra-judicial killing of two brothers aged 14 and 17 by the Peruvian national police force was addressed in Gómez- Paquiyauri Brothers v. PeruThe Girls Yean and Bosico v. The Dominican Republic dealt with a refusal to register the births of Haitian children and the subsequent denial of their nationality rights in the Dominican Republic; and Centro de Reeducacion del Menor v. Paraguay concerned the situation of extreme physical and psychological violence endured by children imprisoned in the Panchito López Reformatory in Paraguay.

In addition, it is worth mentioning that the Inter-American Court has adopted an Advisory Opinion specifically dealing with the protection of children in which it establishes that the American Convention, which only refers to the rights of children in general terms, forms an organic whole (corpus jure) with the CRC (see Juridical Status and Human Rights of the Child, Advisory Opinion OC-17/02, 28 August, 2002).

In addition, mention should be made of UNICEF, one of the key organisations concerned with children’s rights. UNICEF was created in 1946 in the aftermath of the Second World War to provide European children facing famine and disease with food, clothing and health care. Today, UNICEF aims to overcome the obstacles that poverty, violence, disease and discrimination place in a child’s path. UNICEF’s role is specifically mentioned in Article 45 of the CRC. The organisation focuses on improving the child’s environment, the improvement of primary health care, water supply, nutrition, education and community development. In recent years, it has invested heavily in programmes for, among other things, immunisation, water supply systems and literacy. UNICEF is a global leader in vaccine supply, reaching 40 per cent of the world’s children, and is paramount in the implementation of the targets set at the 1990 World Summit for Children and the Millennium Development Goals. UNICEF has also published a very useful ‘Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child’.

Through activities such as participation in the Global Movement for Children and the Special Session on Children of the UNGA, UNICEF stresses the need for global commitment to children’s rights and encourages children and young people to participate in decisions that affect their lives. More than 7,200 people, in 191 countries, work for UNICEF. 


C. Issues of special concern

Certain issues call for special concern when dealing with children’s rights: a) sexual exploitation; b) child soldiers; c) child labour; and d) street children.


                                            1. SEXUAL EXPLOITATION

In March 1990, the UN Human Rights Commission appointed the Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, whose mandate was renewed by the Human Rights Council. In her 2008 report the Special Rapporteur called for the implementation of a ‘comprehensive child protection system’. The system should be founded on national, regional and global coordination. The overall aim is the furtherance of prevention and care - including ‘medical, psychological, social

and legal support for child victims’. (A/HRC/9/21). Furthermore, to three world congresses have been held to combat sexual exploitation of children. The first, the Stockholm World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children was held in 1996. The second World Congress, held in Yokohama in 2001, adopted the ‘The Yokohama Global Commitment’, where parties pledged, inter alia, to reinforce efforts against commercial sexual exploitation of children by addressing root causes that put children at risk of exploitation, such as poverty, inequality, discrimination, persecution, violence, armed conflicts, HIV/AIDS, dysfunctional families, the demand factor, criminality, and violations of the rights of the child, through improved access to education and other social measures. The Congress also set out action to criminalise the sexual exploitation of children. The Third World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, held in Rio de Janeiro in 2008, adopted the ‘Rio de Janeiro Pact to Prevent and Stop Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents’ where states pledge to undertake as a matter of priority the necessary measures to prevent and stop the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents and raise issues of concern, inter alia, in relation to trafficking, impunity for perpetrators and HIV/ AIDS.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography entered into force on 18 January 2002. This Protocol supplements the CRC with detailed requirements for criminalising violations of children’s rights in relation to the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (see II.§1.C). As noted above, the European Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse was opened for signature in October 2007. The Convention is the first of its kind aimed at criminalising the diverse situations in which child sexual abuse occurs. It also works towards concrete preventive measures (e.g., the screening of child care workers) and provides the means by which victims should be supported.


                                         2. CHILD SOLDIERS 

Evidence indicates that the recruitment and use of children has become the means of choice of many armed groups for waging war. At root there are numerous and often interrelated factors that drive the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Children are either recruited by force or may ‘voluntarily’ join armed groups to safeguard themselves and their families. Many are compelled by poverty and lack of livelihood opportunities, domestic violence or lack of parental care altogether. Some children have seen family members killed in conflict and may be motivated by a desire for retribution or revenge. For some the lack of legitimate avenues for political dissent and participation or ideologies of nationalism or ethnic identity become powerful motivating factors. Particularly in situations of protracted conflict that may have lasted for several decades and decimated the adult male population, the recruitment of children becomes a calculus of urgent ‘ demand’ for fighters and ready ‘supply’ of children. (Report by the Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, A/63/227). 

It is estimated that children are being recruited to the armed forces in approximately 17 countries worldwide. Many are recruited by force and threatened with death; others join out of desperation when conflict breaks out leaving them without education, family or any coherent social structure. Child soldiers are commonly abused and when hostilities end many are left mentally and physically scarred, often stigmatised and unable to rejoin society.

The emotional and physical strain the child soldiers suffer leaves them particularly vulnerable after the conflicts end. Many are left physically disabled and suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome in the form of anxiety, bedwetting, nightmares and hyperactive and aggressive behaviour, to name a few examples.

The dehumanising reality of child soldiers receives limited attention in some societies, as it is a taboo subject. This prevents the victims from seeking help and being able to rejoin society and reunite with their families. More generally, however, lack of awareness regarding what child soldiers are exposed to, such as sexual exploitation, leads to problems in regard to successful disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of child soldiers.

In 1996, the UN appointed a Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to promote and protect the rights of all children affected by armed conflict. Furthermore, representatives from 58 countries committed themselves to putting an end to the unlawful recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts, as well as to ensuring that conscription and enlistment procedures for recruitment into armed forces comply with applicable international law at an international conference convened in Paris in 2007 (Paris Principles and Commitments, 2007).

In addition to the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the involvement of children in armed conflict, three other instruments relating to child soldiers have been adopted and entered into force. All three support, and in one case strengthen, the standards set by the Optional Protocol.

The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990) was the first regional treaty to establish 18 years as the minimum age for all recruitment and participation in hostilities.

ILO 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (1999) declares that ‘forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict’ comprises one of ‘the worst forms of child labour’ prohibited in the Convention, and calls for programmes of action to eliminate child soldiering with ‘all necessary measures to ensure the effective implementation and enforcement [?] including the provision and application of penal sanctions or, as appropriate, other sanctions’.

Finally, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is an important development in the campaign against the use of children in armed conflict. It defines the following acts as war crimes: ‘conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities’ in an international armed conflict and ‘conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities’ in a non-international armed conflict. The first trial to take place at the ICC -The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo – is founded on, inter alia, two charges of enlisting child soldiers.

It is worth mentioning that the Special Court for Sierra Leone (jointly created by the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN in January 2002 with the mandate to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the country since 30 November 1996) ruled that the recruitment or use of children under age 15 in hostilities is a war crime under customary international law (see Decision on Preliminary Motion Based on Lack of Jurisdiction (Child Recruitment), Prosecutor v. Sam Hinga Norman).

The UN Security Council has also addressed the issue of child soldiers (and the situation of children in armed conflict more generally) in several resolutions. In Resolution 1539, the Council strongly condemned: 

[T]he recruitment and use of child soldiers by parties to armed conflict in violation of international obligations applicable to them, killing and maiming of children, rape and other sexual violence mostly committed against girls, abduction and forced displacement, denial of humanitarian access to children, attacks against schools and hospitals as well as trafficking, forced labour and all forms of slavery and all other violations and abuses committed against children affected by armed conflict. 

In Resolution 1612 the Security Council decided to implement a monitoring and reporting mechanism in order ‘to collect and provide timely, objective, accurate and reliable information on the recruitment and use of child soldiers in violation of applicable international law.’


                                             3. STREET CHILDREN

An issue of major concern within the realm of children’s rights is the plight of street children. The ICESCR Committee has raised this issue a number of times in its concluding observations. The EU and its members have regularly taken positions on the situation of street children and called on governments concerned to take adequate measures, as well as taking positive steps to try to alleviate their plight, through the financing of different programmes. The Inter-American Court has elaborated on the issue in the ‘Street Children case’ (Villagrán Morales et al. v. Guatemala), which refers to the murder by agents of the state of five street children ‘who lived on the streets in a risk situation’. The Court held that in relation to the street children, the ‘right to life includes, not only the right of every human being not to be deprived of his life arbitrarily, but also the right that he will not be prevented from having access to the conditions that guarantee a dignified existence [?].’


                                              4. CHILD LABOUR

Child labour is another issue of special concern. The ILO has estimated that 250 million children between the ages of five and fourteen work in developing countries, often supplying an essential income for the survival of their family. The CRC addresses, inter alia, child labour that is harmful to a child’s development. Aware that the abolition of child labour is a long term, structural issue, organisations such as the ILO and several international NGOs have initiated programmes aimed at the abolition of child labour while simultaneously improving the lives of those children that are forced to work.

Mention should also be made of ILO 182 concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. The Convention was adopted in June 1999 and to date has received 169 ratifications.

The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights placed great emphasis on the rights of children in its Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. The Conference called for universal ratification of the CRC. It recognised the need to strengthen mechanisms for the protection of children and agreed that children’s rights should be at the forefront within the UN system actions for the protection and promotion of human rights.

Under the System of Collective Complaints of the European Social Charter there has been an important complaint made against Portugal regarding child labour. The complaint (International Commission of Jurists v. Portugal, Complaint No. 1/1998) lodged on 12 October 1998, relates to Article 7(1) ESC (prohibition of employment under the age of 15). The European Committee of Social Rights concluded that there was a violation of Article 7(1) and transmitted its decision on the merits of the complaint to the parties and to the Committee of Ministers, which adopted Resolution CHS (99)4 on 15 December 1999 (for more information on the ESC see II§2.C.2).

The European Court has deliberated over the precise definitions of ‘child slavery’ and ‘child servitude’ in Siliadin v. France. Here, a girl working as a domestic in France was found to be held in servitude by her guardians contrary to Article 4 ECHR. The girl was from another country and was ‘lent’ by one couple, charged with her care, to another couple upon her arrival in France. While her labour was not explicitly coerced by threat of penalty the Court decided that her age and isolation in France warranted the classification of her labour as servitude.

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