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Children’s Rights

A Commentary on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Protocols

Wouter Vandenhole, Gamze Erdem Türkelli and Sara Lembrechts

This Commentary is a fully up-to-date, solid legal work on children’s rights. It offers a contemporary legal perspective on the inherently interdisciplinary field of children’s rights. It responds to the scarcity of legal commentaries in a landscape where several handbooks covering different disciplines have been published in recent years. It is succinct and seeks to capture the essence, yet offers a sophisticated analysis of children’s rights law and branches out into other disciplines where relevant in light of the recent legal and social developments.
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Wouter Vandenhole, Gamze Erdem Türkelli and Sara Lembrechts

List of abbreviations


Table of cases

Table of legislation

Introduction: Three decades of children’s rights law

A. Origins of the CRC I.04

B. A legal perspective on the CRC and its Optional Protocols I.10

1. A multi-tiered approach I.20

2. Children’s rights as human rights I.25

3. Situating the CRC in international law I.34

C. Realisation of children’s rights and the implementation of the CRC I.38

D. New issues and ambiguities I.52

1. New issues and gaps I.52

2. Ambiguities: limitations and derogations I.54

E. Contextualisation: children’s rights beyond the legal field I.58

F. Our approach I.70

CRC Preamble

Article 1: Scope of application

A. No minimum age 1.02

B. Upper age limit 1.05

C. Differentiation 1.09

D. Childhood 1.11

Article 2: Non-discrimination

A. Personal scope of application 2.03

B. Accessory right 2.07

C. Definition and types of discrimination 2.09

D. Prohibited grounds 2.12

E. Obligations 2.17

F. Vulnerability 2.19

Article 3: Best interests of the child

A. A primary consideration in all actions 3.05

1. Defining best interests 3.09

2. Assessing and determining children’s best interests 3.12

3. Balancing different interests 3.17

B. Protection and care 3.23

C. Appropriate standards for care and protection 3.25

D. Balancing CRC rights and principles 3.27

Article 4: General obligation

A. Appropriate measures 4.02

B. Economic, social and cultural rights 4.05

C. Spatial scope of obligations 4.09

D. Implementation 4.12

Article 5: Appropriate direction and guidance consistent with the child’s evolving capacities

A. Background 5.03

B. State obligations 5.05

C. Changing role of parents and other caregivers 5.08

D. Capacity of the child 5.11

E. Beyond the law 5.15

Article 6: The right to life, survival and development

A. Obligations 6.04

B. Key questions 6.08

C. Contemporary debates 6.16

1. Beginning of childhood 6.16

2. Impact of private actors 6.19

Article 7: Name and nationality

A. Birth registration 7.03

B. Name 7.08

C. Nationality and avoidance of statelessness 7.11

D. Right to know one’s parents and to be cared for by them 7.15

Article 8: Preservation of identity

Article 9: Separation from parents

A. Protection of family unitY 9.02

B. A unique provision? 9.05

C. State obligations 9.09

D. Beyond the law 9.22

Article 10: Family reunification

A. Positive, humane and expeditious treatment of applications 10.02

B. Right to leave a country and to return 10.05

C. Unaccompanied or separated children 10.07

Article 11: Illicit transfer and non-return of children

A. Parental abduction 11.02

B. Conclude or accede to international agreements 11.03

C. Additional standards and their interpretation 11.05

D. Other measures to combat illicit transfer and non-return abroad 11.11

E. Changing realities 11.13

Article 12: The views of the child

A. The right to express views 12.05

1. Positive obligation 12.05

2. The capacity of forming one’s views 12.06

3. Free expression of one’s views 12.09

4. Which matters affect the child? 12.14

B. The obligation to give due weight to the child’s views 12.17

C. The specific case of official proceedings 12.24

1. Ways of hearing the child 12.27

2. Fair proceedings 12.29

3. The concept of ‘participation’ 12.30

Article 13: Freedom of expression

A. Obligations 13.02

B. Specific issues 13.07

1. Freedom rights 13.07

2. Limitations 13.10

C. Beyond the law 13.12

Article 14: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

A. Obligations 14.02

B. Key issues 14.03

1. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion 14.03

2. Limitations 14.06

3. A contested freedom: rights and duties of parents 14.09

C. Critical perspectives 14.15

Article 15: Freedom of association and peaceful assembly

A. Substantive clarifications 15.05

B. State obligations 15.09

C. Association rights of working children in trade unions 15.14

D. Beyond the law 15.17

Article 16: The right to privacy

A. Scope 16.05

B. State obligations 16.08

C. Conflicts between children’s rights and parents’ interests 16.14

D. Children’s privacy online 16.16

Article 17: Access to appropriate information through media

A. Obligations 17.02

B. Key issues 17.09

C. Opportunities and risks of mass media 17.11

D. New obligations in the digital age 17.15

Article 18: Common responsibilities of parents for the upbringing and development of the child

A. Common responsibilities 18.02

B. State deference 18.03

C. State assistance 18.05

D. Children of working parents 18.08

E. Critical observations 18.10

Article 19: Protection from all forms of violence

A. Obligations 19.02

1. Definition of violence 19.04

2. Children in the care of primary or proxy caregivers 19.07

3. Measures of protection 19.09

B. Key issues 19.14

1. An unequivocal prohibition 19.14

2. Prohibition of corporal punishment 19.15

C. Contemporary debates 19.25

Article 20: Children deprived of their family environment

A. Necessity of alternative care 20.05

B. Suitability of alternative care (1) 20.07

C. Suitability of alternative care (2): forms of alternative care 20.12

D. Suitability of alternative care (3): no undue disruption in the life of the child 20.17

E. Beyond the law 20.18

Article 21: Adoption

A. Conditions 21.02

B. Inter-country adoption 21.04

C. SubsidiarITy conflicts 21.05

D. Best interests of the child 21.10

E. Adoption treaties 21.11

F. Beyond the law 21.13

Article 22: Asylum seeking and refugee children

A. Obligations 22.02

B. Key issues 22.07

1. Definition of a refugee 22.07

2. Non-refoulement 22.10

3. Content of protection and assistance 22.11

Article 23: Children with disabilities

A. Obligations 23.04

B. Domestic implementation 23.07

C. De-institutionalisation 23.09

D. Inclusive education 23.11

E. Special protection measures 23.12

Article 24: Right to health

A. Obligations 24.02

1. Progressive realisation 24.07

2. Retrogressive measures 24.10

3. Minimum core obligations 24.11

4. International cooperation 24.13

5. Special issues of concern 24.15

B. Contemporary debates 24.37

1. Medical consent 24.37

2. Obligations of private actors 24.41

Article 25: Periodic review of placement

A. Regular review 25.04

Article 26: Social security

A. Meaning and scope of the right 26.01

B. Obligations 26.05

C. Added value of Art. 26 CRC 26.10

Article 27: Adequate standard of living

A. Obligations 27.03

B. Right to housing 27.06

C. Right to food 27.07

D. Right to water 27.11

E. Poverty 27.13

Article 28: Right to education

A. Obligations 28.03

B. Positive discipline 28.09

C. Inclusive education for children with disabilities 28.13

D. Inclusion of Roma children 28.17

E. Exemptions 28.20

F. Access to education for undocumented migrant children 28.21

G. International cooperation 28.23

Article 29: Aims of education

A. Five aims of education 29.02

B. Obligations 29.06

C. Freedom to establish and direct educational institutions 29.09

Article 30: Rights of children from minorities and indigenous origin

A. Obligations 30.03

B. Key issues 30.06

1. Indigenous children’s rights 30.06

2. Balancing of interests 30.08

C. Contemporary debates 30.10

Article 31: Rest, leisure and play

A. Obligations 31.02

B. Key issues 31.07

C. Contemporary debates 31.19

Article 32: Protection from economic exploitation

A. Obligations 32.02

1. Minimum age requirements 32.04

2. Worst forms of child labour 32.07

B. Contemporary debates 32.11

Article 33: Protection from drugs

A. Obligations 33.02

1. Protection of children at higher risk 33.05

2. Protection from economic exploitation 33.07

3. Taking all appropriate measures 33.10

Article 34: Protection from sexual exploitation and abuse

A. Obligations 34.03

1. Protection 34.05

2. Prevention 34.10

B. Contemporary debates 34.14

Article 35: Prevention of abduction, sale and trafficking

A. Obligations 35.02

1. Terminology 35.04

2. Prevention 35.09

3. Child-sensitive procedures 35.12

B. Contemporary debates 35.14

1. Conflict and humanitarian crises 35.14

2. Surrogacy 35.15

Article 36: Protection against all other forms of exploitation

A. Obligations 36.02

B. Contemporary Debate 36.04

Article 37: Deprivation of liberty, prohibition of torture, degrading and inhuman treatment and of capital punishment and life imprisonment

A. Deprivation of liberty 37.02

B. Obligations 37.03

1. General obligations 37.06

2. Specific obligations related to the prohibition of various forms of ill-treatment in detention: art. 37(a) 37.08

3. Specific obligations related to deprivation of liberty: art. 37(b–d) 37.13

C. Contemporary debates 37.24

Article 38: Children in armed conflict

A. Obligations 38.02

B. Key issues 38.04

1. Age thresholds 38.04

2. Interface between art. 38 and international humanitarian law 38.05

3. International armed conflicts 38.07

4. Non-international armed conflicts 38.08

5. Customary law 38.09

C. Beyond the law 38.11

Article 39: Recovery and reintegration of child victims

A. Obligations 39.02

B. Key issues 39.12

1. Tensions around prosecutorial justice and reintegration 39.12

2. Terminological debates: victim versus survivor 39.13

Article 40: Children’s rights in justice systems

A. Obligations 40.04

1. Treatment with dignity and respect: art. 40.1 40.04

2. Procedural guarantees: art. 40.2 40.08

3. Specificities of the juvenile justice system: art. 40.3 40.18

4. Alternatives to institutional care: art. 40.4 40.24

B. Prevention 40.27

Article 41: Respect for higher standards

Article 42: Dissemination

Article 43: The Committee on the Rights of the Child

A. Composition 43.03

B. Elections 43.04

C. Requirements 43.07

D. Functioning 43.09

Article 44: Reporting procedure

A. Reporting guidelines 44.02

B. Sources of information 44.05

C. Discussion of the report 44.06

Article 45: Implementation and international cooperation

Articles 46–54: Final clauses: signature, ratification, accession, entry into force, amendments, reservations, denunciations

A. Consent to be bound 46–54.02

B. Reservations 46–54.05

1. General reservations regime 46–54.06

2. CRC Committee 46–54.07

C. Denunciation 46–54.10

Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC)

A. Compulsory participation and recruitment in hostilities OPAC.04

B. Voluntary recruitment into armed forces OPAC.07

C. Recruitment and use by armed groups OPAC.12

D. Implementation, prevention and rehabilitation OPAC.14

E. International cooperation OPAC.15

F. Reporting OPAC.17

G. General principles and standard clauses OPAC.18

H. Critical reflections OPAC.19

Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

A. Key legal questions OPSC.03

1. Terminology OPSC.05

2. Criminalisation/penalisation OPSC.07

3. Jurisdiction OPSC.10

4. Judicial cooperation OPSC.11

5. Protection of child victims OPSC.15

6. Prevention OPSC.16

7. Procedural provisions OPSC.17

Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure (OPIC)

A. Preamble OPIC.04

B. General conditions OPIC.06

C. Individual complaints OPIC.11

D. Interim measures OPIC.14

E. Admissibility OPIC.16

F. Consideration of the communication OPIC.19

G. Good offices OPIC.20

H. Consideration of the merits OPIC.21

I. Follow-up OPIC.22

J. Economic, social and cultural rights OPIC.24

K. Inter-state complaints OPIC.26

L. Inquiry procedure OPIC.28

M. International assistance and cooperation OPIC.30

N. Dissemination and information OPIC.31

O. Evaluation OPIC.34