Countries say UK must do more to uphold children’s rights

The Universal Periodic Review took place this morning with the spotlight on the UK. Many countries raised concerns for children’s rights issues. Our Policy and Communications Intern, Judi Martin, gives an update on the key developments.

At this morning’s Universal Periodic Review, countries focused on the child rights impacts of the UK’s migration policies, child poverty and the low minimum age of criminal responsibility. Recommendations were also made against the UK’s plans to reform the Human Rights Act with the introduction of a new Bill of Rights. Together is delighted to see some of our suggestions raised by countries, holding the UK and devolved governments accountable for its children’s rights obligations and raising awareness for children’s rights issues on an international level.

Each state took its turn in raising their concerns and making recommendations to the UK’s legislation, policies and practices that have an impact on human rights. Countries such as Denmark and Ukraine raised our recommendation to the UK on the ratification of the Third Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on individual communications procedure. However, in response to this recommendation the UK delegate, Mike Freer, insisted that “our domestic legislation enables children to challenge government decisions in the domestic courts through judicial review and special education needs and disability tribunals” despite international organisations’ recognition of the need for children to bring claims to an international body in order to address rights violations effectively and ensure state accountability.

The international standards held in the CRC were raised in relation to the minimum age of criminal responsibility with Lithuania, Luxembourg and Slovenia recommending the UK and devolved governments to raise it to at least fourteen years. The UK delegate defended England and Wales’ age of criminal responsibility at ten years saying it ensured flexibility to prosecute young offenders, despite it contracting guidance from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be at least 14.

This examination could not be more adequately timed as current issues were raised in the review such as the UK’s use of offshore detention centre in Rwanda where asylum seekers will be held indefinitely. The UK delegation defended this policy, saying asylum seekers will be treated in line with international standards. This does not address the risk offshore detention brings to unaccompanied children to be trafficked and exploited, and contradicts international standards provided by the CRC which say that the child’s best interest should be considered in all decisions which effect them (Article 3).

Other current issues such as the reforming of the Human Rights Act were raised by Mexico, Norway, Luxembourg and others, who asked for the UK government to ensure current ECHR protections would be maintained. Child poverty was another issue raised as many countries acknowledged the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on children and the need for the UK and devolved governments to introduce measures to ensure the protection of children and young people.

We are excited to use these recommendations in our future work bringing an aspect of international accountability on the UK and devolved governments.

The complete review of the UK is due to be published next week.

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