Fourth and fifth follow-up progress reports on individual communications.
Overview of the trends and practices of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as observed in the fourth and fifth follow-up progress reports
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (Committee) issued its first follow-up progress report in 2019. Since then, the Committee has adopted five periodic reports following Rule 28 Rules of Procedure under the Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure (OPIC).
In the fourth follow-up progress report (fourth report) dated 26 August 2022, the Committee discussed eight Communications, with six of them concerning Spain. When analysing the trends and recurring themes in these Communications under OPIC, it becomes evident that a significant portion of the Committee's decisions pertains to Spain, particularly in the context of migration. Notably, in the fourth report, the Committee made the strategic choice to consolidate all Communications related to age assessment in asylum procedures concerning Spain into a single follow-up procedure. This decision was motivated by the Committee's aim to ensure that the necessary structural changes, essential for the full implementation of its Views, are effectively carried out by the State Party. While this approach may enable the Committee to engage with Spain collectively and enhance the efficiency of its work, it also raises questions as to whether the individual remedies required for each case might become diluted. The answer to this question may emerge as the Committee continues its follow-up discussions on these Communications in the future.
The fourth report highlights a significant issue in the case of A.B. V Finland, concerning the nature of remedies in the form of reparations and compensation as prescribed by the Committee. In its Views, the Committee stipulated that the State Party is obligated to provide effective reparations to the author, including adequate compensation. However, Finland challenged this recommendation, stating that neither the Convention on the Rights of the Child nor the OPIC explicitly mandates State Parties to provide reparations. Finland further contends that the Committee failed to specify the form of compensation it should provide the author, unlike in the case of D.D. v Spain, where the Committee explicitly outlined that compensation owed to the author must be financial. The author asserts that in light of the Committee's statements about adequate compensation and his suffering, Finland should compensate him (for non-pecuniary damages) in the amount of €10,000. The Committee has decided to keep the follow-up discussion open and requested a meeting with Finland. This situation raises questions about the interpretation of effective reparations, the determination of adequate (financial) compensation, and how these matters will ultimately be resolved by the Committee.
Lastly, the fourth report covers the Communication involving E.A. and U.A. V Switzerland. It is reported that positive progress has been made following the adoption of Views in this case. The Communication centers on the deportation of two Azerbaijani children from Switzerland to Italy. Switzerland reports that the victims have been granted refugee status under their parents after a re-examination, and general measures have been implemented to systematically involve children in the context of asylum procedures. The Committee notes that although the State Party has partially complied with the remedy, it seeks further information regarding Switzerland's plans for publishing and widely disseminating the Views. Notably, the Committee places considerable emphasis on the extensive dissemination of its Views, even when the remedy concerning the victim(s) has been met. This emphasis on wide dissemination is a recurring practice throughout the fourth report.
Moving to the fifth follow-up progress report (fifth report) dated March 8, 2023, this report delves into five different Communications. Among these, two Communications, specifically C.R. V Paraguay and Y.A.M. V Denmark, led the Committee to conclude the follow-up procedure with an A rating. This decision was based on the State Parties adoption of measures that were deemed largely satisfactory. In the case of Y.A.M. V Denmark, although the author raised concerns about insufficient dissemination and translation of the Views to Danish, the Committee found it to be acceptable. Denmark's explanation that English is widely used and that the Views are available on the relevant authority's website likely contributed to this assessment. This decision raises questions when compared to the Committee's stance in the fourth report, where significant importance was placed on dissemination. It prompts consideration of what the Committee deems as sufficient dissemination and the expectations from the State Party to earn an A rating for compliance in this regard.
The case of X.C. et al. V Denmark was also discussed in the follow-up report , involving the deportation of three children and their mother to China, where there was a risk that the children would be separated from their unmarried mother and not registered in the hukou (household register). This registration is crucial for accessing health, education, and social services. Following the adoption of the Committee's Views, Denmark reopened the asylum case, but the outcomes remained unchanged. Denmark argues that the case reopening and additional information provided fulfil their obligations in line with the Views. However, after a meeting with the State Party, the Committee decided to maintain an ongoing follow-up dialogue and requested further information.
Regarding the other two Communications, K.S. and M.S. V Switzerland, and S.B. et al. V France, the Committee chose to keep the follow-up dialogue open and requested meetings with the respective State Parties to discuss the timely implementation of the Committee's Views. It's noteworthy that the Committee tends to invite the State Party for a meeting when they are dissatisfied with the outcomes, although the exact criteria for this decision remain unclear. Future practices may shed light on the factors guiding these decisions.
When examining the fourth and fifth reports and reflecting on previous reports, it becomes evident that the Committee's Views have produced positive results for individual victims, and State Parties have made adjustments to address systemic issues. However, a range of inconsistent practices has emerged in the Committee’s approaches. There is a notable lack of clarity in interpreting remedies and defining State Parties' expectations. Given the growing interest in the OPIC, it is imperative that the Committee takes deliberate steps to ensure that its approaches are structured and consistent. This consistency is essential for legal certainty and to prevent State Parties from facing unclear or shifting expectations.