This year I am pleased to report that our Working Group on Access to Justice has really moved forward. Since my previous report to the Annual Meeting of ENOC this time last year in Paris, the Working Group has had 3 meetings. One in Paris right after our Annual Meeting, one in Malta in July this year and one here in Strasbourg last night. Following the Malta meeting, I considered it appropriate to inform all ENOC members of the state of events. Thus, I reported to you by an email communication, circulated by the Secretariat on 2/7/2010. I briefed you then of the details of the Malta meeting and of the events planned by the Working Group.
Before I proceed further, I wish to inform you that in Malta we welcomed to the Working Group Helen D’ Amato, the new Commissioner for Children’s Rights in Malta, who replaced Carmen Zammit in office, and who very willingly accepted to be a member of the Working Group.
Coming back to work of the Working Group, the following tasks were undertaken:
2. Council of Europe’s Guidelines on child-friendly Justice:
1. The proposal for the Workshop we attended on Wednesday, on Using the Council of Europe human rights mechanisms to pursue children’s rights.
As I had the opportunity to say by way of welcome, at the opening of the Workshop, the idea was put at the table by Peter Newel; it arose as a consequence of the responses of ENOC members to the survey on our role and mandates, which revealed that, in many of our respective countries, there are serious children’s rights violations, where governments are neither responding to persistent domestic advocacy, nor to repeated recommendations by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The survey, also, revealed that no ENOC institutions have used or supported the use of the Council of Europe’s Human Rights mechanisms. Peter offered to discuss and develop the programme on our behalf, with the Council of Europe and, as always, he succeeded! We are thankful for that.
The Workshop on “Accessibility by Ombudspersons for children’s rights to Council of Europe Human Rights Mechanisms to challenge violations of children’s rights,” took place on Wednesday and many of us attended. Actually, I wish that many more had taken advantage of that. It was really enlightening: We heard about the European Court of Human Rights’ contribution to asserting children’s rights; the European Social Charter (ESC) Collective Complaints mechanism in relation to asserting children’s rights and; the Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT) in relation to the rights of children deprived of their liberty. We were also enlightened about other Council of Europe mechanisms and institutions that ENOC members could use: The Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights; the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; and the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CRETA).
As a follow - up to the Workshop we will now, at George Moschos’ proposal, look into the development of a hand - book or some other material, possibly with a child friendly version, which will give details of the international and Human Rights mechanisms that can be used to challenge violations of children’s rights, for use by ENOC members and not only.
Another matter that arose from the Workshop and which we will take up immediately with the new chair of ENOC is the accreditation/recognition of ENOC as an organization for the purposes of the European Social Charter. This will enable individual Ombudspersons to use the ESC Collective Complaints Mechanism by filing complaints through ENOC.
Ankie Vandekerckhove reported to us yesterday afternoon. An almost final version of the Guidelines was circulated following the Malta meeting. As you know, as chair of the Working – Group, I have participated on behalf of ENOC as an observer in the work of the Ad hoc Committee which prepared the Guidelines.The Working Group agreed that, once the Guidelines are adopted, (they will be discussed by the CDCJ next week) we will circulate them to all members with proposals as to how they could be used to improve national systems. In addition, we have decided that we will prepare a document which will present the Guidelines in a child friendly version.
3. Application of the CRC by national courts.
4. New Optional Protocol to the CRC to provide for an international complaints mechanism for children’s rights/Approaching your Governments:
This is another issue we looked into. We agreed that, in the light of the results of the previous ENOC survey on “Legal action and the Convention on the Rights of the Child”, we would consider drafting recommendations, both for ENOC and for individual member-institutions, seeking to ensure that the CRC, whether or not incorporated into national law, can be applied and used in national courts. Peter has offered to prepare a first draft for that. I am sure he will do so, sooner than later.
Lastly, I want to thank all the members of the Working Group for the time and work they have put in and for the excellent cooperation that prevailed throughout the year: Patricia Lewsley who has attended all meetings and was always willing to respond and who, though she non assumed the Chair of ENOC, agreed to stay on the Working Group; Helen D’ amato who joined us in Malta; George Moschos for all the brain-stormings we have had over the phone and for being supportive and, last but certainly not least, Peter Newell for the many meetings we had in Geneva and elsewhere and the numerous on–the-phone and by email consultations and for always being ready and willing for additional tasks.
ENOC has at its last Annual Meeting agreed to support the drafting of this new human rights instrument and is actively involved in the process. Pursuant to this decision, as the chair of ENOC’s Working Group on Access to Justice, I attended an expert consultation in Geneva last June and spoke, on your behalf, in full support of the OP, as well as for including a collective communications procedure, that is, without the identification of individual children victims, for children and those acting on behalf of children. I stressed that, our institutions, by their very nature and in view of the powers entrusted in them by their respective national law, have, a major role and the potential to assist children to have access to justice at national and international level; and, also that, for some institutions that their respective law doesn’t allow them to do so, or fully fulfill this task, they should try to acquire such competence.
Peter Newell will brief us shortly on the progress of the CRC-OP.
In my report to you last July, I requested each one of you to lobby with your governments in support of the new OP to the CRC to provide a communications procedure and, also, for allowing collective communications. If we are to achieve an effective, child-friendly international mechanism to pursue violations of children’s rights, it is essential that members engage with their governments now, through Ministries of Foreign Affairs and other relevant Departments, to gain their support in the drafting process. Perhaps now is the time to take stock of what we have all done.
Now I would ask Peter to kindly update us on the state of affairs for CRC – OP. We can have the discussion on all issues afterwards.
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