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African Human Rights Law Journal

On-line version ISSN 1996-2096
Print version ISSN 1609-073X

Afr. hum. rights law j. vol.8 n.1 Pretoria  2008

 

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Win some, lose some: The 10th ordinary session of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

 

 

Julia Sloth-NielsenI; Benyam D MezmurII

IProfessor of Law, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
IIResearcher and PhD Candidate, Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape, South Africa

 

 


SUMMARY

The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the monitoring body of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, held its 10th ordinary session in October 2007. This discussion highlights the inertia of the Committee, exemplified by its failure to examine any of the state reports submitted to it. Some cause for optimism may be derived from the appointment of a permanent Secretary to the Committee.


 

 

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*BA LLB (Stellenbosch), LLM (Cape Town), LLD (Western Cape); juliasn@telkomsa.net
** LLB (Addis Ababa), LLM (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) (Pretoria); bmezmur@uwc.ac.za. It is hereby acknowledged that this work is based upon research supported by the National Research Foundation.
1 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990) OAU Doc CAB/ LEG/24.9/49 (1990).         [ Links ] For a detailed discussion of the African Children's Charter, see eg D Olowu 'Protecting children's rights in Africa: A critique of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child' (2002) 10 The International Journal of Children's Rights 127;         [ Links ] D Chirwa 'The merits and demerits of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child' (2002) 10 The International Journal of Children's Rights 157;         [ Links ] A Lloyd 'Evolution of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the African Children's Committee of Experts: Raising the Gauntlet' (2002) 10 The International Journal of Children's Rights 179;         [ Links ] M Gose 'The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child' (Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape, 2002).         [ Links ]
2 For a report on the 5th, 6th and 7th meetings of the African Children's Committee, see B Mezmur(a) 'The African Children's Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child: An update' (2006) 6 African Human Rights Law Journal 549.         [ Links ] See also B Mezmur(b) 'Still an infant or now a toddler? The work of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and its 8th ordinary session' (2007) 7 African Human Rights Law Journal 258;         [ Links ] B Mezmur(c) 'The 9th ordinary session of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child: Looking back to look ahead' (2007) 7 African Human Rights Law Journal 545.         [ Links ]
3 For official reports and documents, see http://www.africa-union.org (accessed 31 March 2008).
4Art 38(3) of the African Children's Charter provides that '[s]even committee members shall form the quorum'.
5 The Bureau, similar to the African Commission, is composed of the Chairperson of the Committee and the Deputy Chairperson.
6 Rule 17 of the Rules of Procedure of the Committee.
7 See sec 3 below on terms of office of Committee members for further details.
8 Mezmur(a) (n 2 above) 556-558.
9 Our emphasis.
10 The out-going Committee members were the Chairperson of the Committee, Justice Joyce Alouch (Kenya), the 1st Vice-Chairperson, Mr Rodolphe Soh (Cameroon), the 2nd Vice-Chairperson, Prof Lullu Tshiwulu (South Africa), the Rapporteur, Mr Startson Nsanzabaganwa (Rwanda) and Mr Robert Ahnee (Mauritius).
11 Art 48(1) African Children's Charter.
12 Art 48(2) African Children's Charter.
13 Note should be taken of the fact that during the 6th ordinary session in 2006, eg, the appointment of Committee members as Rapporteurs to specific state party reports was undertaken.
14 See eg R Murray 'Children's rights in the OAU' in R Murray (ed) Human rights in Africa (2004) 168.
15 F Viljoen International human rights law in Africa (2007) 312 (insertion by authors).
16 AU Doc BC/OLC/66/Vol XVIII (5 April 2005) as cited in Viljoen (n 15 above) 312.
17 Mezmur(a) (n 2 above) 556.
18 The Day marks the 1976 march in Soweto, South Africa, when thousands of black school children took to the streets to protect the inferior quality of their education and to demand their right to be taught in their own language. CM/Res 1659 (LXIV) Rev 1 1996.
19 Mezmur(c) (n 2 above) 556.
20 Mezmur(c) (n 2 above) 57.
21 The Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference is responsible for overseeing the implementation of, and providing guidance concerning, two especially important conventions concerning children: the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the 1993 Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption (ratified by Burkina Faso, Burundi, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius and South Africa so far). The Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) has been a pioneer in developing systems of international co-operation at both administrative and judicial levels. Central Authorities established under the Hague Conventions constitute the core of a global network of inter-state co-operation for the protection of children. Notably in recent times in the African context, the HCCH has embarked on a project, The Hague Project for International Co-operation on the Protection of Children in the Southern and Eastern African Region, which is, amongst other things, aimed at introducing practical legal structures to support co-operation in terms of the Hague Child Protection Conventions. The participants (judges from most Southern and Eastern African countries as well as some from Central Africa) at the Judicial Seminar on the Role of the Hague Child Protection Conventions on the Practical Implementation of the CRC and the African Charter, which was held in The Hague from 3 to 6 September 2006, recommended that the AU should raise and promote awareness among member states of the African Charter of the Hague Child Protection Convention and the CRC. A similar seminar was convened for judicial officers from Western and Central African states in 2007.
22 See African Child Policy Forum 'In the best interests of the child: Harmonising laws in Eastern and Southern Africa' (2007) http://www.africanchildforum.org (accessed 31 March 2006). The publication was launched shortly thereafter at the Second Pan-African Forum, as described further in this article.
23 African Child Policy Forum (n 22 above) 3.
24 See J Sloth-Nielsen & B Mezmur 'A dutiful child: The implications of article 31 of the African Children's Charter' Journal of African Law (forthcoming, 2008).
25 The article makes substantive provision for the duty of the child to work for the cohesion of the family, to respect parents, superiors and elders at all times, and to assist them in times of need; to serve his national community by placing his physical and intellectual abilities at its service; to preserve and strengthen social and national solidarity; to preserve and strengthen African cultural values in his relations with other members of the society, in the spirit of tolerance, dialogue and consultation and to contribute to the moral well-being of society; to preserve and strengthen the independence and the integrity of his country; to contribute to the best of his abilities at all times and at all levels, to the promotion and achievement of African unity.
26 See http://www.africa-union.org/root/au/Conferences/2007/November/sa/Children/doc/en/Agenda%20of9620 Experts-ENG.doc (accessed 2 April 2008).
27 See http://aumission-ny.org/children_issues.htm (accessed 31 March 2008).
28 Though this did not happen in February.

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