11 June 2010
COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 8 OF THE OPTIONAL PROTOCOL TO THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD ON THE INVOLVEMENT OF CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT
Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child:
Republic of Serbia
1. The Committee considered the initial report of the Republic of Serbia (CRC/C/OPAC/SRB/1) at its 1504th meeting (see CRC/C/SR. 1504), held on 26 May 2010, and adopted, at the 1541st meeting, held on 11 June 2010, the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee welcomes the submission of the State party’s initial report under the Optional Protocol as well as the written replies to its list of issues (CRC/C/OPAC/SRB/Q/1/Add.1). The Committee nevertheless regrets that the State party report was not prepared according to the guidelines for reporting under the Optional Protocol.
3. The Committee reminds the State party that these concluding observations should be read in conjunction with the concluding observations adopted on the State party’s initial report on the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography contained in CRC/OPSC/SRB/CO/1 and its previous concluding observations adopted on the State party’s initial report on 6 June 2008 contained in CRC/C/SRB/CO/1.
4. The Committee notes with appreciation the provision in the Law on Military, Labour and Material Duty (adopted in October 2009) which provides that persons under the age of 18 will not be sent to compulsory military service.
5. The Committee welcomes the ratification by the State party of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in 2002.
I. General measures of implementation
National plan of action
6. The Committee regrets that the draft National Plan of Action for Children contains no strategic goals and provisions specifically related to the Optional Protocol and that it does not make reference to peace education or dissemination of the provisions of the Optional Protocol.
7. The Committee recommends that the State party include goals, provisions, activities and resources related to the implementation of the Optional Protocol in the National Plan of Action.
Coordination and evaluation
8. The Committee notes that the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights is the body collecting information in order to coordinate the implementation of the rights of the child and of the Optional Protocol. However, it is unclear to what extent this function is exercised consistently and systematically, especially in the areas of competence of the Ministries of Defense and of Foreign Affairs. The Committee furthermore, regrets the lack of a mechanism or procedure established for the evaluation of the implementation of the Optional Protocol at the national and local levels.
9. The Committee recommends that the State party establishes an effective coordination body that involves all actors concerned with the implementation of the Protocol, including in consultation with civil society. The Committee further recommends that a periodic evaluation mechanism, vested with adequate human, financial and technical resources, be developed to evaluate compliance with the Optional Protocol.
Dissemination and awareness
10. The Committee appreciates the assurance given by the State Party during the dialogue to increase awareness raising efforts on the Optional Protocol among the general public.
11. The Committee recommends, in light of article 6, paragraph 2 of the Optional Protocol that the State party ensure that the principles and provisions of the Optional Protocol are widely disseminated to the general public, including children and to state officials.
12. The Committee notes with appreciation that participants of peacekeeping operations receive training on human rights, including child rights and the oral information provided by the State during the dialogue that the knowledge on the Optional Protocol among the military is high. The Committee is concerned, however, that relevant professional groups working with children may not receive sufficient training on the provisions of the Protocol.
13. The Committee recommends that the State party develop systematic education and training programmes on the provisions of the Optional Protocol for all relevant professional groups working with children, notably police officers, lawyers, prosecutors and judges, teachers, health professionals and social workers.
14. The Committee notes with appreciation that recruits are only sent to the military service in the calendar year they turn 19 years old and the indication given by the delegation during the dialogue that the Law on Military, Labour and Material Duties explicitly prohibits persons under the age of 18 from joining the armed forces in all circumstances, including in state of war and state of emergency.
15. The Committee recommends that the State party proceed to amend the declaration made upon ratification of the Protocol to reflect the new legislation.
16. While noting the information provided by the State party during the dialogue, that there is a complaints mechanism under the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of education, the Committee regrets that an adequate impartial complaints mechanism for children attending the Military Grammar School appears to be lacking.
17. The Committee recommends that the State party provide children attending the Military Grammar School with adequate access to independent complaints mechanisms.
18. While noting that there have been some initiatives to include peace education into the civic education course of primary and secondary schools, the Committee regrets that these courses are optional.
19. The Committee recommends, in line with its General Comment No. 1 on the aims of education, that the State party systematically includes peace education in the school curricula, with special reference to crimes covered by the Optional Protocol.
III. Prohibition and related matters
Criminal legislation and regulations in force
20. While noting that there are no armed groups in the State party, the Committee is concerned, that there is no explicit provision criminalizing the recruitment of children by armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of the State.
21. The Committee recommends that the State party provide an explicit provision in the Penal Code to criminalize the recruitment of children into armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of the State.
Jurisdiction and extradition
22. The Committee notes that extraterritorial jurisdiction may be exercised on the grounds of approval by the Public Prosecutor of Serbia. However it regrets that the penal legislation does not allow extraterritorial jurisdiction for all the cases referred to in article 4, paragraph 2 of the Optional Protocol. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that extraterritorial jurisdiction is subject to the criterion of double criminality and that extradition is subject to the criterion of reciprocity.
23. The Committee recommends that the State party take steps to ensure that domestic legislation enables it to establish and exercise extra-territorial jurisdiction over war crimes of conscription and enlistment of children in hostilities and further recommends establishing extraterritorial jurisdiction over crimes under the Optional Protocol without the criterion of double criminality.
IV. Protection, recovery and reintegration
Assistance for physical and psychological recovery
24. The Committee regrets the paucity of information on measures taken to identify children entering Serbia who may have been involved in armed conflict abroad.
25. The Committee recommends that the State party establish an identification mechanism for children, including asylum-seeking, refugee children and unaccompanied children, who may have been involved in armed conflict abroad. The Committee further recommends that the State party take measures to provide these children with appropriate assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and their social reintegration.
V. International assistance and cooperation
26. The Committee encourages the State party to support multilateral and bilateral activities to address the rights of the child involved in armed conflict, in particular by promoting preventive measures as well as physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of child victims of acts contrary to the Optional Protocol.
27. The Committee encourages the State party to fully implement the national legislation which prohibits any sale of arms when the final destination is a country where children are known to be, or may potentially be recruited or used in hostilities.
VI. Follow-up and Dissemination
28. The Committee recommends that the State party take all measures to ensure the full implementation of the present recommendations, inter alia, by transmitting them to the Ministry of Defense and other relevant Ministries, the National Assembly, the Supreme Court and to all relevant national and local authorities, for appropriate consideration and further action.
29. The Committee recommends that the initial report and written replies submitted by the State party and the related concluding observations adopted by the Committee be made widely available to the public at large, including through the Internet (but not exclusively), civil society organizations, youth groups, professional groups, including social workers, the media and children, in order to generate debate and awareness of the Optional Protocol, its implementation and monitoring.
VII. Next Report
30. In accordance with article 8, paragraph 2, the Committee requests the State party to include further information on the implementation of the Optional Protocol in its next periodic report under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in accordance with article 44 of the Convention due on 12 March 2013.