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Geneva, 17 September 2015

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) started its 70th session on September 14 and 15 that aimed to review reports submitted by several countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in addition to its performance in the field of protecting children and respecting the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified in 1997.

The Committee is the body of 18 Independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its State parties. It also monitors the implementation of the three Optional Protocols to the Convention, on the involvement of children in armed conflict, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and on a communications procedure. On 19 December 2011, the UN General Assembly approved the third Optional Protocol on a communications procedure, which will allow individual children to submit complaints regarding specific violations of their rights under the Convention and its first two optional protocols. This Protocol entered into force in April 2014.

All State parties are committed to submit to the Committee periodic reports on the State’s performance. States should also submit a primary report two years after the ratification of the Convention, then a periodic report every five years. The Committee examines every report and presents to the relevant State the issues of concern as well as recommendations in form of “concluding observations”. The UAE hasn’t submitted its report yet on time and it was only examined during the current 70th session. One of the Committee’s members pointed out to this issue during the opening session and Amal Aldoseri, one of the Committee’s members and its rapporteur, stated a delay in the submission of the report that wouldn’t allow the Committee to inspect whether the UAE respected the articles of the Convention or not.

The Committee asked substantial and challenging questions:

The UAE presented in its report, dated 12 November 2012, the situation of children inside the country in addition to the laws regulating this field. This report was followed by several questions that the Committee submitted demanding few clarifications about the following issues:  

  1. The reason behind the delay of the report’s submission and the not yet founded national institution working on children
  2. Special measures to limit the sex-based discrimination
    1. Violation of rights of prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders’ children
  3. Clarifications about children sentenced to death penalty in 2010
  4. Corporal/Physical punishment
    1. Violence against children and trafficking of children as well as the measures taken in this context
  5. Putting a legal age for marriage and sanctions for child marriage
  6. Child labour and documented violations
  7. Children with disabilities and their care
  8. The right to education
  9. What are the effects of the anti-terrorism law on children?
  10. The law regulating the rights of the child
  11. Information and statistics related to children

The UAE government replied to the previous questions in a detailed report submitted in June 2015. According to these informations, the Committee examined the report, also standing on additional data presented by several NGOs, such as the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights that submitted to the Committee many observations on the State’s report and evidences showing violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Summary of the 70th Session:

The session started in 14 September at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. The UAE delegation was presided by Hassin Said Al-Chikh from the Ministry of Social Affairs. The number of delegation’s members was large with a deliberate and clear outnumbering of women in order to show off the Emirati women’s emancipation, to enthrall members of the Committee and to give the impression that UAE is a developed country which respects women’s rights.

The Committee’s members wondered why all the delay to pass a law regulating children’s rights and asked about the reasons preventing ratifying the optional protocols and also about the reservation against articles 7 and 17 of the Convention in addition to the budget allocated for the implementation of the Convention. Besides, many members of the Committee condemned the absence of specific and detailed statistics and the difficulty to obtain information from non-state actors, as well as the complete absence of the civil society’s effective role except governmental and semi-governmental institutions that work in the field of children’s rights.

Some of the Committee’s members also talked about the haziness of the definition of the word “child” throughout the State’s report, as well as the applied measures in the field of custody, age of marriage, inheritance, exploitation, physical, psychological and sexual abuse of children, the situation of non-resident nationals s as well as migrants, the right of the child to access to information in addition to follow-up mechanisms.

Some of the Committee’s members raised questions about the situation of detainees’ children and violations as well as restrictions against them. They reminded the delegation that they didn’t answer this specific question in addition to other issues and demanded an answer. The delegation denied any of these violations, and Mohamed Al-Mur, the Secretary specialized in the field of human rights at Dubai Police, said that “sanctions are individual and only apply on whomever committed the crime; hence, the legal system respects this regulation”. He added that: “children of detainees as well as their families live a normal life and no legal measures have been taken against them.” Al-Mur has also denied the fact that children were sentenced to death. The ICJHR presented, on a report submitted during the preliminary session in January 2015, several cases of travel and passports bans imposed on children of detainees in addition to deprivation from higher education and restriction on visiting imprisoned fathers that are considered flagrant violations of article 2, 9, 10 and 17 of the Convention.

Members of the Committee also wondered about the lack of civil society’s participation in preparing the report and its discussion in addition to the lack of Emirati NGOs’ participation during the Committee’s session, yet, the UAE delegation didn’t answer this question. However, when it came to achievements, the delegation gave detailed answers but very short and insufficient answers were presented when dealing with violations and statistics.

At the end, the Committee’s rapporteur stressed on presenting additional information and statistics within 24 hours, but the head of the delegation asked for an extended deadline as the delegation is outside the country.

And when it came to ratify some conventions as well as protocols and withdraw the reservations on few articles, a member of the delegation said that “the State doesn’t sign any convention unless it prepares the appropriate ground to apply it, so the reservation on article 17 related to the access to information is a way to set up the ground and scrutinizing websites”. He also added that: “We put restrictions only for the best interest of the child and not against it”. Yet, the question which is raised here is the following: Does the best interest of the child include preventing him the access to information from state actors such as knowing the place of his father when the latter is victim of enforced disappearance?

Despite the fact that the Committee thanked the delegation of the rich dialogue and achievements when it came to the rights of the child, it pointed at the end of the session to some areas that demanded more scrutinizing.

During the following weeks, the Committee will publish its concluding observations about the relevant issues and will present its recommendation to the UAE.