Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Tunisia, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.181 (2002).


 

 

UNEDITED VERSION

COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
30th Session

CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES
UNDER ARTICLE 44 OF THE CONVENTION


CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE
RIGHTS OF THE CHILD: TUNISIA

1. At its 788th and 789th meetings (see CRC/C/SR.788 and 789), held on 28 May 2002, the Committee on the Rights of the Child considered the second periodic report of Tunisia (CRC/C/83/Add.1), which was received on 16 March 1999, and adopted, at its th meeting, held on 7 June 2002, the following concluding observations.

A. INTRODUCTION

2. The Committee welcomes the submission of the State party's second periodic report, which was submitted in a timely manner and prepared in accordance with the Committee's guidelines for reporting. The Committee furthermore appreciates the detailed written response to the list of issues (CRC/C/Q/TUN/2), which was equally submitted in a timely manner. The Committee notes with appreciation that the well-informed and high-ranking delegation contributed to an informative and constructive dialogue.


B. FOLLOW-UP MEASURES UNDERTAKEN AND
PROGRESS ACHIEVED BY THE STATE PARTY

3. The Committee notes the State party's commitment to the issue of child rights and particularly welcomes the adoption of the Child Protection Code, on 9 November 1995, which entered into force on 11 January 1996, including the ensuing establishment of delegates for the protection of childhood by Decret N 96-1134, the obligatory reporting of danger to children and the development of a specialized system of juvenile justice . The Committee particularly welcomes that articles 4 and 10 of the Child Protection Code make express reference to the best interest of the child as well as respect for the views of the child, respectively, in line with the previous recommendation of the Committee (CRC/C/15/Add.39, para. 7). The Committee further notes the establishment of a child parliament.

4. The Committee welcomes efforts to improve data collection, in line with previous recommendations (ibid, para. 12), including by enhancing the status of the National Council for Children by converting it into a Higher Council under Decree No. 2002-574 of 12 March 2002, and by drafting an annual report on the situation of the child.

5. In light of the previous recommendations (ibid, para. 9 ) the Committee further commends the amendment of the Labour Code, raising the minimum age for admission to employment to 16 years, which is the age for completion of compulsory education. The Committee notes the series of new laws adopted regarding children born out of wedlock, and with regard to the joint responsibility on the part of spouses, as well as policy measures to ensure maintenance following divorce, measures for the protection of children deprived of a family environment, and various other steps taken to ameliorate the implementation of the Convention and to follow-up on the previous dialogue with the Committee.

6. In light of the previous recommendations (ibid, para. 10), the Committee notes with satisfaction the withdrawal, on 1 March 2002, of Reservation no. 2 with regard to article 40, paragraph 2 (b) (v) and Declaration no. 2, by which the State party declares that "its undertaking to implement the provisions of this Convention shall be limited by the means at its disposal."

7. The Committee welcomes the ratification by the State party in 1995 of the ILO Convention 138 concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment and the ratification in 2000 of ILO Convention 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour.

C. PRINCIPAL SUBJECTS OF CONCERN AND COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS

C.1. GENERAL MEASURES OF IMPLEMENTATION

Committee's previous recommendations

8. The Committee regrets that some of the concerns and recommendations (CRC/C/15/Add.39) it made upon consideration of the State party's initial report (CRC/C/11/Add.2) have been insufficiently addressed, particularly those contained in paras. 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 16 and 17. The Committee notes that those concerns and recommendations are reiterated in the present document.

9. The Committee urges the State party to make every effort to address those recommendations from the concluding observations of the initial report that have not yet been implemented and to address the list of concerns contained in the present concluding observations on the second periodic report.

Reservations

10. While welcoming the State party's withdrawal of Reservation no. 2 with regard to article 40, paragraph 2 (b) (v) and Declaration no. 2, by which the State party declares that "its undertaking to implement the provisions of this Convention shall be limited by the means at its disposal", and noting the statement by the delegation that consideration will be given to withdrawing the remaining reservations, the Committee remains concerned about the extent of reservations and declarations made to the Convention by the State party. In particular, the Committee reiterates that the reservation relating to the application of article 2 appears to be incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention.

11. The Committee, in line with its previous recommendation, and in light of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (1993), encourages the State party to consider reviewing its reservations and declarations with a view to withdrawing them, including in particular the reservations relating to article 2 of the Convention.

Coordination

12. While welcoming the efforts made in the area of coordination, the Committee observes that the effectiveness in practice of the Higher Council for Children as a mechanism for coordination remains unclear.

13. The Committee recommends that the State party make every effort to ensure the effectiveness of the Higher Council for Children, the status of which was recently enhanced. It reiterates its previous recommendation to the State party to strengthen the efficiency and the effectiveness of coordination between the central Government and the governorates (ibid, para. 13).

Data collection

14. While noting the significant efforts of the State party to collect reliable data on the situation of children, and particularly the preparation of an annual report on the situation of the child, the Committee regrets in particular the maintenance of a sectoral approach to data collection and monitoring.

15. The Committee recommends the State party to:
a) Conduct impact assessments regarding the annual report on the situation of the child, incorporating all areas of the Convention
b) Develop an integrative approach to data collection and monitoring;
c) seek technical assistance from, inter alia, UNICEF, UNFPA and UNDP in this regard.

Independent monitoring structures

16. The Committee welcomes the creation of the "Information, Training, Documentation and Study Observatory" in February 2002, and the appointment of delegates who play an important role in the protection of children and in receiving complaints. However, the Committee notes the need to establish a monitoring mechanism of an independent nature, in line with its previous recommendation for the State party (ibid, para. 8).

17. The Committee encourages the State party to:
a) establish an independent national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles relating to the status of national institutions (A/RES/48/134), to monitor and evaluate progress in the implementation of the Convention at the national and, if appropriate, at the local levels, including implementation by the private sector and NGOs as providers of services to children. This institution should be empowered to receive and investigate individual complaints of violations of child rights in a child-sensitive manner, and effectively address them; and
b) seek technical assistance from, inter alia, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and UNICEF.

Training/Dissemination of the Convention

18. While noting with appreciation the efforts undertaken by the State party to widely publicize the principles and provisions of the Convention, including the broadcasting of information through the media and the integration of parts of the Convention in school curricula, the Committee is of the opinion that the measures to create widespread awareness and understanding of all principles and provisions of the Convention need to be further strengthened and implemented in an on-going, comprehensive and systematic basis.

19. The Committee reiterates its recommendation (ibid, para. 11) to pursue its efforts aiming at creating awareness of all aspects of the Convention, and having its basic principles grasped by the general public, and to continue training relevant professional groups working for and with children, in particular parliamentarians, judges, lawyers, law enforcement officials, civil servants, municipal workers, personnel working in institutions and places of detention for children, teachers, health personnel, including psychologists, social workers, religious leaders, as well as children and their parents. Technical assistance from, among others, OHCHR and UNICEF could be requested in this regard.


D.2. DEFINITION OF THE CHILD

20. While noting the positive measures taken to bring the different age requirements into full compliance with the Convention, and measures taken to follow-up on the Committee's previous consideration by raising the minimum age of admission to employment to 16 years so as to harmonize it with the age of compulsory education, the Committee is concerned at the disparity in the minimum age of marriage for boys and girls, and particularly the age of marriage for girls which is set at 17 years, although noting with appreciation that it was raised from 15 years.

21. The Committee recommends the State party to address the disparities in the minimum age of marriage for boys and girls by raising the minimum age of marriage for girls.

D.3. GENERAL PRINCIPLES

The right to non-discrimination

22. The Committee welcomes the information on measures taken to address discrimination against children born out of wedlock, in line with the Committee's previous recommendations, although remaining concerned at the implementation of legislation in practice. It furthermore observes that the principle of non-discrimination (article 2 of the Convention) does not figure prominently in the new Child Protection Code. The Committee is deeply concerned that the principle of non-discrimination is not fully implemented in practice with respect to several groups, including on the basis of political and human rights activities, expressed opinions or beliefs of children or the child's parents, as well as with regard to children with disabilities and children living in less advantaged regions and rural areas, especially with regard to their access to health and adequate educational facilities.

23. In accordance with article 2 of the Convention, the Committee recommends the State party
a) to make concerted efforts at all levels to address discrimination, notably discrimination based on the political and human rights activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of children or the child's parents, legal guardians or family members, disabilityand national, ethnic, or social origin, through a review and reorientation of policies, including increased budgetary allocations for programmes targeting the most vulnerable groups;
b) enhance efforts to close gaps in the enjoyment of rights between different regions as well as with regard to gaps between urban and rural communities.


24. The Committee requests that specific information be included, in the next periodic report, on the measures and programmes relevant to the Convention on the Rights of the Child undertaken by the State party to follow up on the Declaration and Programme of Action adopted a the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, and taking account of General Comment no. 1 on article 29(1) of the Convention (aims of education).

Respect for the views of the child

25. Taking note of the efforts by the State party to give effect to the principle of respect for the views of the child, in particular its inclusion in the Child Protection Code, the Committee is nevertheless concerned that respect for the views of the child remains limited owing to traditional societal attitudes towards children in schools, civil courts, administrative decisions and especially in the family, as well as concerns regarding the implementation of arts. 13 and 15, providing for the right to freedom of expression as well as the right to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly, respectively.

26. The Committee recommends that the State party
a) promote and facilitate, within the family, the school, the courts and administrative bodies, respect for the views of children and their participation in all matters affecting them, in accordance with article 12 of the Convention;
b) develop skills-training programmes in community settings for teachers, social workers, local officials and confessional leaders to enable them to assist children to express their informed views and opinions and to have them taken into consideration; and
c) seek assistance from UNICEF among others.

D.4. CIVIL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

Right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly

27. The Committee is concerned that the rights to freedom of expression, including to receive information as well as freedom of association and peaceful assembly are not fully guaranteed in practice.

28. The Committee recommends that the State party take all necessary measures to ensure the full implementation of the rights to freedom of expression and to freedom of association and peaceful assembly in practice, in accordance with articles 13 and 15 of the Convention.

Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion

29. The Committee is concerned about information brought to its attention, which indicates that the exercise of the right to freedom of religion may not always be fully guaranteed, particularly with regard to regulations prohibiting the wearing of a headscarf by girls in schools.

30. The Committee recommends that the State party take all necessary measures to ensure the full implementation of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

31. While noting the delegation's statement as to the complete absence of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the State party, the Committee remains extremely concerned at allegations of violations of the right of the child not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment appearing in a number of reports brought to the attention of the Committee, particularly in relation to children of human rights defenders and political opponents.
32. In light of article 37 (a) of the Convention, the Committee strongly recommends that the State party
a) enforce, or, when appropriate review existing legislation, and investigate in an effective way reported cases of torture and ill-treatment of children;
b) ensure that alleged perpetrators be transferred from active duty or suspended while they are under investigation, dismissed and punished if convicted, and that court proceedings and sentences should be publicized;
c) train law enforcement personnel on child rights issues;
d) in the light of article 39, take all appropriate measures to ensure the physical and psychological recovery and social integration of child victims of torture and/or ill-treatment.

D.5. FAMILY ENVIRONMENT AND ALTERNATIVE CARE

Violence/abuse/neglect/maltreatment

33. While noting the provision in the Code of Child Protection regarding ill-treatment (art. 24) and the relevant provision in the Penal Code (art. 224), as well as the Ministerial Circular of December 1997, banning all forms of corporal punishment and practices hurting the dignity of children, the Committee is concerned that, as noted by the delegation, corporal punishment is only a crime if it is prejudicial to the health of the child. It notes with concern that violence as a means of discipline in the home and at school continues to be acceptable as a form of discipline in the State party. The Committee regrets that no follow-up to the Committee's previous recommendation has been initiated to protect children from ill-treatment (ibid, para. 17). The Committee is furthermore concerned that there is insufficient information and awareness of domestic violence and its harmful impact on children.

34. The Committee urges the State party to:
a) take all legislative measures to prohibit in the most effective way possible all forms of physical and mental violence, including corporal punishment and sexual abuse, against children in the family, in the schools and in institutions; and furthermore recommends that the State party:
b) conduct a study to assess the nature and extent of ill-treatment and abuse of children, and design policies and programmes to address it;
c) carry out public education campaigns about the negative consequences of ill-treatment of children, and promote positive, non-violent forms of discipline as an alternative to corporal punishment;
d) establish effective procedures and mechanisms to receive, monitor, and investigate complaints, including intervening where necessary;
e) investigate and prosecute instances of ill-treatment, ensuring that the abused child is not victimized in legal proceedings and his/her privacy is protected;
f) provide care, recovery and reintegration for victims;
g) train teachers, law enforcement officials, care workers, judges and health professionals in the identification, reporting and management of ill-treatment cases;
h) take into consideration the recommendations of the Committee adopted on its days of general discussion on children and violence (CRC/C/100, para. 688, and CRC/C/111, paras. 701-745);
i) seek assistance from, among others, UNICEF and WHO.

D.6. BASIC HEALTH AND WELFARE

Children with disabilities

35. While welcoming the extensive legislation regarding children with disabilities, and their rights to appropriate education, rehabilitation and training, the Committee regrets that only a small number of children with minor disabilities attend regular schools. The Committee notes the statement by the delegation, that a strategy for integration and vocational training for children with disabilities, as well as a study on causes of disabilities are in the process of being completed.

36. The Committee urges the State party to:
a) review existing policies and practice in relation to children with disabilities, taking due regard of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (General Assembly resolution 48/96) and of the Committee's recommendations adopted on its General Discussion Day on "Children with Disabilities" (CRC/C/69);
b) undertake greater efforts to promote community-based rehabilitation programmes and inclusive education;
c) undertake greater efforts in the area of prevention, by reviewing, inter alia, health programmes and policies relating to pregnancy, birth and child health, and
d) seek assistance from, inter alia, UNICEF, and WHO, and relevant NGOs.

Right to health and healthcare

37. The Committee notes the sustained commitment by the State party to implement its primary health policies and the ensuing achievements in the area of health care, notably the decrease by 40% of infant and under five child mortality rates over the past decade, and achievements in the area of vaccinations, among others. While noting the delegation's statement that a plan has been formulated to address the issue of persisting regional and urban/rural disparities in the availability and quality of maternal and child health care services, the Committee nevertheless remains concerned at the persistence of this problem as well as challenges regarding the provision of health services dealing with adolescent specific needs.

38. The Committee urges the State party to:
a) reinforce its efforts to allocate appropriate resources, and develop and adopt, policies and programmes to improve and protect the health situation of children, particularly in the rural regions showing the highest mortality indicators;
b) ensure equal access to and quality healthcare to all children, independent of socio-economic factors;
c) reinforce health services capacities to address adolescent specific needs;
d) seek technical assistance from, amongst others, WHO and UNICEF.

D.7. EDUCATION, LEISURE AND CULTURAL ACTIVITIES

Education

39. While welcoming the State party's commitment to making basic education a priority and achieving virtually universal access to education, the Committee remains concerned at the repetition and drop out rates, which, while decreasing, continue to pose a significant challenge to the educational system. The Committee is furthermore concerned at regional disparities in education as well as the disparity of the illiteracy rate between urban and rural areas as well as gender disparities. The Committee is furthermore concerned at the low enrolment in early childhood education and the decrease of public early childhood education centers which may result in discrimination on the basis of income level.

40. The Committee recommends the State party:
a) to take all appropriate measures, including the allocation of adequate financial, human and technical resources, to further improve education, as stipulated in articles 28 and 29, both with regard to quality as well as relevance - taking into account General Comment no.1 on article 29(1) of the Convention (aims of education) - , and to ensure that all children enjoy the right to education;
b) to seek to implement additional measures to promote early childhood education, and to encourage children to stay in school and to adopt effective measures to reduce illiteracy rates;
c) to continue cooperation with the UNESCO and UNICEF in improving the sector of education.

D.8. SPECIAL MEASURES OF PROTECTION

Economic exploitation

41. While welcoming various measures taken (see paras. 5 and 7) to address the phenomenon of child labour, the Committee is concerned about the lack of specific data and activities concerning child labour in the State party.

42. The Committee recommends the State party:
a) to take all necessary measures to effectively prevent and combat child labour, and
b) to report in the next periodic report on the nature and magnitude of child labour as well as the measures taken for the implementation of ILO Conventions 138 and 182.

Sexual exploitation

43. While welcoming the State party's strict criminal legislation regarding sexual abuse and exploitation of children, the Committee is concerned at reports indicating its existence in the State party, both at home and in the street. The Committee is further concerned at the insufficient data on and awareness of the phenomenon of sexual abuse and exploitation of children in Tunisia.

44. In light of article 34 and other related articles of the Convention, the Committee recommends that the State party undertake studies with a view to assess the scope of sexual exploitation of children, including prostitution and pornography; and implement appropriate policies and programmes for prevention and for the rehabilitation,recovery and reintegration of child victims according to the Declaration and Agenda for Action and the Global Commitment adopted at the 1996 and 2001 World Congresses against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.

Administration of justice

45. The Committee welcomes the adoption of the Child Protection Code as well as other legal provisions in the area of juvenile justice. However, the Committee is concerned at the failure of the State party to guarantee full implementation of all provisions (e.g. the fact that juvenile courts have not yet been established), in light of reports of detention and ill-treatment of children, as well as detention of juveniles with adults, which has allegedly resulted in sexual abuse or other ill-treatment.

46. The Committee recommends the State party to
a) ensure the full implementation of the juvenile justice system as envisaged in legislation, in accordance with all relevant provisions of the Convention, in particular articles 37, 40 and 39, as well as other relevant international standards in this area, such as the Beijing Rules, the Riyadh Guidelines, the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty, and the Vienna Guidelines for Action on Children in the Criminal Justice System;
b) ensure that the deprivation of liberty is only used as a measure of last resort; children have access to legal aid and independent and effective complaints mechanisms; and that persons under 18 are not detained with adults;
c) treat children or juveniles in conflict with the law and children or juveniles at risk in a different and distinct manner so that they are not placed in the same institutions with the same regime or restrictions; and
d) seek assistance from, inter alia, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Centre for International Crime Prevention, the International Network on Juvenile Justice, and UNICEF through the Coordination Panel on Juvenile Justice.

D.9. OPTIONAL PROTOCOLS TO THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD

47. The Committee encourages the State party to ratify the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

D.10. DISSEMINATION OF THE CONVENTION

48. Finally, the Committee recommends that in accordance with article 44, paragraph 6, of the Convention, the second periodic report presented by the State party be made widely available to the public at large and that consideration be given to the publication of the report along with the written answers to the list of issues raised by the Committee, the relevant summary records of the discussion, and the concluding observations adopted thereon by the Committee following its consideration of the report. Such a document should be widely distributed in order to generate debate and awareness of the Convention and its implementation and monitoring within the Government, the Parliament and the general public, including concerned non-governmental organizations.





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