Sixth follow-up progress report on individual communications.

Sixth follow-up progress report on individual communications.

An overview of trends and emerging practices from the sixth followup report on the individual communications from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Following the rules of procedure, on 6th February 2024 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (Committee) shared its sixth follow-up report (sixth report) on the implementation of measures stipulated in individual communications, as required under rule 28 of the Rules of Procedure under the Optional Protocol. This post seeks to identify trends in the Committee’s review process, to better understand the balance between ensuring reparations for individual authors, and the role of OPIC communications as means for implementation of more systemic change.

In some of the cases from the sixth report, the rationale behind the assessment is obvious. S.K v. Denmark concerned the deportation of the author from Denmark to India, where she was at risk of violence from her father. The State had affected the remedies from the Committee, to reconsider SK’s deportation case and to disseminate the views amongst the Refugee Appeals Board, therefore receiving an ‘A’. Conversely, N.B v. Georgia concerned the use of corporal punishment against the author in kindergarten. The author's victim status had still not been recognised and their case had not progressed since the initial communication submission, nor were there any developments to ensure that similar violations did not occur in the future. As such, the Committee chose to maintain a follow-up dialogue with the State.

The Committee must consider the implementation of both the reparations and follow-through of remedies for the individual authors in each communication, and the broader, policy-based recommendations that seek to embed a more systemic child rights-based approach. It is unclear how these aspects are balanced when reaching a decision on the final assessment ranking.

This is exemplified by the reports for S.F.M v. Denmark and E.H. et al. v. Belgium. S.F.M v. Denmark concerned the deportation of the author from Denmark to Somalia, where she was at risk of being subject to female genital mutilation. The Committee requested that the State take all necessary steps to ensure such violations do not occur in the future, including ensuring that asylum proceedings affecting children include a best interests analysis. E.H. et al. v. Belgium concerned the detention of children subject to a deportation order. Along with ‘adequate compensation’ for the author and ensuring that the Committee’s views are disseminated widely, the State was required to ensure that best interests of the child are a primary consideration when considering the return of children.

In both cases, the Committee, the Author, and the State felt satisfied by the implementation of the remedies accorded to the individual author in each case. However, in S.F.M., the State submitted that the Committee’s view ‘will be taken into account’ by the Danish Immigration Service and Refugee Appeals Board. In E.H et al, the State shared that they had introduced a ‘general policy note’ which stated that children could no longer be detained in closed centre. In both cases, concerns were raised by the Authors about whether these measures were sufficient in meeting the Committee’s remedies of embedding the best interests principle into procedures, given that confinement of children and families in closed detention was still permissible in the Belgian legislation. Nonetheless, the case was still assessed as an ‘A’. This would suggest that the priority is ensuring the author receives reparations, given that is unclear whether the State’s response to the policy-based recommendations will actually enforce change. Of course, ensuring reparations for the authors of communications is of the upmost importance, but the question remains as to whether the Committee could be applying more pressure to ensure States are committing to such changes.

A.B. v. Finland concerned the deportation of a homosexual couple and their child to the Russian Federation. The Committee found that the State had failed to consider the best interests of the child in their decision and requested the State to provide effective reparations to the Author, to widely disseminate the Committee’s views, and to ensure that the best interests of the child are effectively and systematically considered in asylum proceedings. The state was awarded a ‘B’ for compliance overall. Although the author was not deported, it remains unclear the extent to which the failure to provide financial compensation resulted in the Committee’s final assessment, as opposed to the lack of policy change to recognise LGBTQIA asylum claims from applicants from the Russian Federation, that resulted in this outcome.

The final case featured in the sixth follow up report, S.N. et al. V. Finland, does not shed further light on this. The case concerned the repatriation of 10 Finnish nationals from refugee camps in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Committee chose to maintain dialogue with the State on their compliance with this, given that there was complexity in contacting the parents of the children remaining in the camps.

The follow-up procedure clearly provides a valuable tool for improving accountability. However, the process could benefit from greater transparency about how the Committee conducts assessments, to better understand the role of OPIC as a broader tool for advocacy, as well as measure to allow children to enforce their rights as an individual. Continued and sustained dialogue between State parties and the Committee in future will provide further clarity. It is also hoped that as more States ratify OPIC, there will be even greater clarity not only on how the assessment criteria is applied, but also the consequences of such assessments.