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UN body empowered to hear childrens' rights complaints

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Monday announced [press release] that a legal instrument, which grants children access to international human rights protections, will go into effect in April. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure [text] permits children or their representatives to submit formal complaints to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRD), upon which the CRD must review the allegations and decide whether to take action. If a rights violation is found to have the proper grounds, the CRD must then recommend to the nation at issue specific and mandatory procedures to remedy the violations. According to the UN, the Protocol effectively places children on equal legal footing with adults with respect to several international treaties. On Monday Costa Rica became the 10th nation to ratify the Protocol, thereby giving it legal effect.

Childrens' rights continues to be an important issue across the globe. In November the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) issued [JURIST report] a 60-page multimedia report that Syrian refugee children are suffering trauma from the Syrian Civil War, which has killed over 120,000 people. The report stated that many Syrian refugee children in Jordan and Lebanon are growing up in broken families, lacking education and serving as a household's primary source of income. Also in November a UN independent rights expert called on the Benin government to better protect the rights of children [JURIST report] after a visit to the country reportedly revealed widespread abuse and exploitation. In September Sweden's Ombudsman for Children Fredrik Malmberg called for the country to ban infant male circumcision [JURIST report], claiming the practice violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Also in September UN officials urged member states to ratify [JURIST report] the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its three optional protocols at the 2013 treaty event held at its New York headquarters.

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