Access to justice for children

CRIN Global Access to JusticeAccess to justice for children means that children, or their proper advocates where applicable, must be able to use and trust the legal system to protect their human rights.

The Child Rights International Network (CRIN) is the first organization to publish a global overview to show how effectively children or their guardians can use the courts to challenge violations to their rights.

This report is the result of a research project scrutinising how the legal systems of 197 countries empower children to realise their rights or perpetuate the rights violations that they should combat.

With the support of hundreds of lawyers and NGOs from around the world, we have published a report for every country on earth setting out

  • the status of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in national law;
  • how the law treats children involved in legal proceedings;
  • the legal means available to challenge violations of children’s rights;
  • and the practical considerations when challenging violations using the legal system.”

You can download the full report here. The world ranking is here.

The top 10 countries are:

  1. Belgium
  2. Portugal
  3. Spain
  4. Finland
  5. Netherlands
  6. Luxembourg
  7. Kenya
  8. Iceland
  9. Latvia
  10. United Kingdom (England & Wales)

The United States of America shares the #51 spot with Uganda. At the bottom of the list are Cuba, Somalia, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Eritrea, and Equatorial Guinea.

The CRIN’s recommendations are here and center foremost on countries signing and ratifying all international complaints mechanisms including the Optional Protocol to the CRC on a communications procedure; adopting and/or amending and implementing laws and rules to make sure that:

  • the CRC and its optional protocols form part of national law, take precedence over conflicting laws, and are enforceable before domestic courts;
  • children of any age have standing to start legal proceedings in their own name without a representative, and can appoint a representative of their choosing if they so wish

If you check the list you see that New Zealand comes in at #22.

New Zealand ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1993.

The CRC has not been incorporated into domestic laws, and New Zealand reserves the right to interpret its CRC obligations in consonance with its national laws and policies.

Though the CRC is not directly enforceable in national courts, the courts give due consideration to the principles embodied in the CRC while deciding cases where children are involved. A minor can bring, continue or defend any court proceedings with the consent of a litigation guardian. If a lawyer is appointed for the child, it is solely at the discretion of the court to decide whether or not the court fees will be paid by the applicant.

Non-governmental organisations may have standing to bring a claim involving a violation of children’s rights. There are several child-friendly mechanisms to enable children to give evidence in court and to protect children’s privacy in legal proceedings.”

On his website, Grant Mahy discusses the difficulties in New Zealand. He too emphasizes that New Zealand has entered a reservation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which reads:

Nothing in this Convention shall affect the right of the Government of New Zealand to continue to distinguish as it considers appropriate in its law and practice between persons according to the nature of their authority to be in New Zealand including but not limited to their entitlement to benefits and other protections described in the Convention, and the Government of New Zealand reserves the right to interpret and apply the Convention accordingly.”

This reservation effectively negates New Zealand’s responsibility to respect children’s rights within the international human rights framework. In other words, plenty of work in many countries if we really take children’s rights serious. For more information about the CRIN please go to their website.