COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES
UNDER ARTICLE 44 OF THE CONVENTION
Concluding Observations of the Committee on the
Rights of the Child: BELARUS
1. The Committee considered the second periodic
report of Belarus (CRC/C/65/Add.15), submitted
on 20 May 1999, at its 786th and 787th meetings
(see CRC/C/SR786-787 ), held on 27 May 2002,
and adopted at the 804th meeting, held on
7 June 2002, the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee welcomes the submission of the State party's second periodic report, which follows the guidelines for reporting, and of the written replies, timely submitted, to its list of issues (CRC/C/Q/BEL/2). The Committee, although regretting that only one member of the State party's delegation was directly involved in the implementation of the Convention in Belarus, notes the constructive dialogue and the positive reactions to the suggestions made during the dialogue.
B. Positive aspects
3. The Committee notes that the State party
adopted a number of laws in order to further
conform domestic legislation with the provisions
of the Convention, including the new Civil
Code and the new Marriage and Family Code
adopted in 1999, and the revision in 2000
of the Rights of the Child Act.
4. The adoption in 1998 of the International Treaties Act by which norms of international treaties, such as the Convention, become part of current law and can therefore be directly invoked in courts, is welcomed by the Committee.
5. The Committee notes that, in light of its previous recommendation (CRC/C/15/Add.17 of 7 February 1994, para.11), the National Commission on the Rights of the Child was established in 1996.
6. The Committee recognises that, in line with its previous recommendation (ibid., para.11) a national plan for the protection of the rights of the child 1995-2000 was adopted by Presidential Decree No.150 of 19 April 1995 and followed up by the Presidential Programme "Children of Belarus" for 2001-2005 approved by Presidential Decree No.281 of 24 May 2001.
7. The Committee welcomes the adoption in March 1999 of a National Plan for Human Rights Education covering the period 1999-2004.
8. The Committee welcomes the State party's adoption of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. It further notes that Belarus has signed the 1993 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, as previously recommended (ibid. para.13).
C. Factors and difficulties impeding
the implementation of the Convention
9. The Committee acknowledges that, due to the economic transition period facing the State party, the growing poverty affecting families, especially those with many children and those living in rural areas, is still impeding the full implementation of the Convention in the State party. Further, it notes the persistence of the negative consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster affecting the population in general and the health and development of children, in particular.
D. Principal areas of concern and recommendation
1. General Measures of Implementation
(arts. 4, 42 and 44, paragraph 6 of the Convention)
Committee's previous recommendations
10. The Committee regrets that some of the
concerns and recommendations (CRC/C/15/Add.28
of 24 October 1994) it made upon consideration
of the State party's initial report (CRC/C/8/Add.6)
have been insufficiently addressed, particularly
those contained in paras. 11, 12, 14, and
15. The Committee notes that those concerns
and recommendations are reiterated in the
11. 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.
12. The Committee, while noting the various
legislative measures taken with respect to
child rights, reiterates its concern (ibid.,
para.6) as to the full compatibility of the
national legislation with the provisions and
principles of the Convention. It is also concerned
that the legislation does not sufficiently
reflect the comprehensive rights-based approach
of the Convention.
13. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Continue its comprehensive review of existing legislation, from a rights-based perspective, to ensure its full conformity with the principles and provisions of the Convention;
(b) in this regard, consider seeking assistance from, among others, UNICEF.
14. The Committee, while acknowledging the
efforts made by the State party in improving
the coordination by establishing the National
Commission on the Rights of the Child in 1996,
notes with concern that the National Commission
has basically a consultative status. It further
notes that the implementation process of the
Presidential Programme "Children of Belarus"
for 2001-2005 is monitored and reviewed by
the Administration of the President of the
Republic of Belarus.
15. The Committee reiterates its recommendation (ibid., para.11) that the State party ensure the establishment of a permanent body to coordinate the implementation and monitoring of the rights of the child at national and local levels, including by effectively coordinating activities between central and local authorities and cooperating with NGOs and other sectors of civil society.
16. The Committee, while taking note of the
ongoing discussions on the establishment of
an independent monitoring body, expresses
its concern at the absence of an overall national
mechanism with the mandate to regularly monitor
and evaluate progress in the implementation
of the Convention and which is empowered to
receive and address complaints by children.
17. The Committee encourages the State party to establish an independent and effective mechanism in accordance with the Paris Principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (General Assembly resolution 48/134), either as a part of a National Institution on Human Rights or as a separate body, such as a Children Ombudsman, which should be provided with adequate human and financial resources and easily accessible to children, that:
(a) monitors the implementation of the Convention;
(b) deals with complaints from children in a child-sensitive and expeditious manner; and
(c) provides remedies for violations of their rights under the Convention.
In this regard, the Committee further recommends that the State party consider seeking technical assistance from, among others, UNICEF and OHCHR.
Resources for children
18. While noting the efforts done by the
State party to prevent the decline in living
standards of the population, the Committee
expresses its concern that budgetary allocations
for children are still insufficient to respond
to national and local priorities for the protection
and promotion of children's rights and to
overcome and remedy existing disparities between
rural and urban areas with respect to services
provided to children.
19. In light of article 4 of the Convention, the Committee encourages the State party:
(a) to continue its efforts to prevent, also through a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, the decline in living standards of families, in particular, those with many children, those living in rural areas and single parent families;
(b) to identify clearly its priorities with respect to child rights issues in order to ensure that funds are allocated "to the maximum extent of […] available resources and, where needed, within the framework of international cooperation" for the full implementation of the economic, social and cultural rights of children, in particular for children belonging to the most vulnerable groups in society; and
(c) to identify the amount and proportion of the budget spent on children at the national and local levels in order to evaluate the impact and effect of the expenditures on children.
20. The Committee expresses its concern that
data are not disaggregated for all areas covered
by the Convention. It further notes that data
on children are not used in an adequate manner
to assess progress and as a basis for policy-making
in the field of children's rights.
21. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) strengthen its mechanism to collect and analyse systematically disaggregated data on all persons under 18 for all areas covered by the Convention, with special emphasis on the most vulnerable groups, including children of economically disadvantaged households; children living in rural areas; children in institutions; children with disabilities; and children affected by the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.
(b) use these indicators and data effectively for the formulation and evaluation of policies and programmes for the implementation and monitoring of the Convention;
(c) seek technical assistance from UNICEF in this regard.
Cooperation with civil society
22. Despite the recent establishment of several
non governmental organisations, the Committee
expresses its concern that insufficient efforts
have been made to involve civil society in
the full implementation of the Convention,
particularly in the area of civil rights and
freedoms. It further notes with deep concern
that non-governmental organisations are subjected
to difficult procedures for registration and
that foreign funding in particular is limited,
which may limit their effectiveness and independence.
23. The Committee emphasises the important role civil society plays as a partner in implementing the provisions of the Convention, including with respect to civil rights and freedoms. The Committee reiterates its recommendation (ibid., para.12) that the State party:
(a) consider involving non governmental organisations, especially rights-based ones, and other sectors of civil society working with and for children, more systematically throughout all stages of the implementation of the Convention, in particular with respect to civil rights and freedoms;
(b) in line with the Human Rights Committee's recommendation (CCPR/C/79/Add.86, para.19), review without delay laws, regulations and administrative practices in order to facilitate the registration and activities of non-governmental organisations.
Training/dissemination of the Convention
24. The Committee, while acknowledging that
there have been efforts to disseminate the
Convention and to train professionals working
with and for children in line with its previous
recommendation (ibid, para.17), nevertheless
expresses its concern that these measures
need to be strengthened.
25. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) develop more creative methods to promote the Convention, including through audiovisual aids such as picture books and posters, in particular at local level, and through media;
(b) continue and strengthen its efforts to provide adequate and systematic training and/or sensitisation on children's rights of professional groups working with and for children, such as judges, lawyers, law enforcement and health personnel, teachers, and school administrators;
(c) in particular provide adequate training to the judiciary on the impact of the International Treaties Act of 1998 and the possibility of directly invoking the Convention in courts; and
(d) seek technical assistance from, among others, UNICEF, UNESCO and OHCHR with a view to involving non governmental organisations and other sectors of the civil society.
2. General principles (arts. 2, 3, 6 and 12 of the Convention)
26. The Committee is concerned that the principles
of non-discrimination (art. 2 of the Convention),
best interests of the child (art. 3), right
to life, survival and development of the child
(art.6) and respect for the views of the child
(art. 12) are not fully reflected in the State
party's legislation and administrative and
judicial decisions, as well as in policies
and programmes relevant to children at both
national and local levels.
27. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (ibid., para.11) that the State party:
a) appropriately integrate general principles of the Convention, namely articles 2, 3, 6 and 12, in all relevant legislation concerning children;
b) apply them in all political, judicial and administrative decisions, as well as in projects, programmes and services which have an impact on all children; and
c) apply these principles in planning and policy-making at every level, as well as in actions taken by social and health welfare and educational institutions, courts of law and administrative authorities.
28. The Committee is concerned that the principle
of non-discrimination (art. 2 of the Convention)
is not fully implemented for children of economically
disadvantaged households; children living
in rural areas; children in institutions;
children with disabilities; Roma children
and children affected by Chernobyl consequences,
especially with regard to their access to
adequate health care and educational facilities.
29. The Committee recommends that the State party:
a) monitor the situation of children, in particular those belonging to the above-mentioned vulnerable groups, who are exposed to discrimination; and
b) develop, on the basis of the results of this monitoring, comprehensive strategies containing specific and well targeted actions aimed at eliminating all forms of discrimination.
30. 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 at 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
31. Noting the provisions which allow the
child to be heard, the Committee is concerned
that judges or other decision-making bodies
have too much discretionary power in that
32. In light of article 12, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) make sure that all children mature enough to express their views are heard in all judicial and administrative procedures affecting them; and
(b) undertake campaigns to make parents, professionals working with and for children and the public at large aware that children have the right to be heard and to have their views taken seriously.
3. Civil rights and freedoms
(arts. 7, 8, 13-17 and 37 (a) of the Convention)
33. The Committee notes with concern that
the implementation of articles 13 (freedom
of expression), 15 (freedom of association
and peaceful assembly) and 17 (access to appropriate
information) is restricted.
34. The Committee recommends that the State party guarantee to all children the full implementation of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly and access to appropriate information, recognised in articles 13, 15 and 17 of the Convention.
4. Family environment and alternative care
(arts.5; 18 (paras.1-2); 9-11; 19-21; 25; 27 (para.4); and 39 of the Convention)
35. The Committee notes with deep concern
the spreading phenomenon of family disintegration
in Belarus, including the high rate of divorces
and the growing number of single parent families
and of cases of parental neglect. While noting
that the State party is taking some measures
to strengthen families such as the Law on
Allowances to Families of Children of 1 April
2002, it however expresses its concern that
there is no coordination among public agencies
dealing with family oriented policies, including
the implementation of a poverty reduction
strategy, very little preventive action and
that professional social workers are not trained
enough to deal with dysfunctional families.
36. In light of article 18 of the Convention, the Committee recommends that the State party:
a) continue to develop measures for the prevention of family disintegration and the strengthening of family development;
b) improve social assistance and support to families to help them with their child-rearing responsibilities, including through parents education, counselling and community-based programmes;
c) provide adequate training to social workers;
d) seek international assistance from, among others, UNICEF.
Children deprived of a family environment
37. Noting the official priority policy on
deinstitutionalisation included in the Marriage
and Family Code, the Committee expresses its
serious concern about the high number of children,
including children with disabilities, who
are deprived of a family environment and placed
in institutions, as foster care, or other
forms of family-based alternative care, are
not sufficiently developed and available.
In addition, it notes with concern that institutions,
because of lack of resources, provide children
with very low quality housing and care and
that children lack effective mechanisms to
communicate concerns and complaints about
38. In light of article 20 of the Convention, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Take effective measures, including the development of strategies and awareness-raising activities, to prevent and reduce the abandonment of children;
(b) Take effective measures to increase and strengthen foster care, family-type foster homes and other family-based alternative care;
(c) Place children in institutions only as a measure of last resort;
(d) Take all necessary measures to improve conditions in institutions;
(e) Provide support and training for personnel in institutions, including social workers;
(f) Establish effective mechanisms to receive and address complaints from children in care, to monitor standards of care and, in light of article 25 of the Convention, to establish regular periodic review of placement;
(g) Provide adequate follow-up and reintegration support and services for children who leave institutional care.
Abuse and neglect
39. The Committee expresses its concern about
the insufficient information and awareness
of the ill-treatment and abuse of children
in the home, in schools and in other institutions.
40. In light of article 19 of the Convention and in line with its previous recommendation (CRC/C/15/Add. 75, para. 40), the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Undertake studies on domestic violence, violence against children, ill-treatment and abuse, including sexual abuse, and implement the statistical system created to keep a record of incidents of physical and mental violence and neglect against children, in order to assess the extent, scope and nature of these practices;
(b) Adopt and implement effectively adequate measures and policies to prevent and combat ill-treatment and abuse of children, including public campaigns, and contribute to changing attitudes;
(c) Investigate effectively cases of domestic violence and ill-treatment and abuse of children, including sexual abuse within the family, within a child-sensitive inquiry and judicial procedure in order to ensure better protection of child victims, including the protection of their right to privacy;
(d) Prohibit all forms of corporal punishment at home, in schools and other institutions and develop measures to raise awareness on the harmful effects of corporal punishment and engage in the promotion of alternative forms of discipline in families to be administered in a manner consistent with the child's dignity and in conformity with the Convention;
(e) Take measures to provide support services to children in legal proceedings, and for the physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of the victims of rape, abuse, neglect, ill-treatment and violence, in accordance with article 39 of the Convention;
(f) Take into account the Committee's recommendations adopted at its days of general discussion on "Violence Against Children within the Family and in Schools" (CRC/C/111) and on "State Violence against Children" (CRC/C/100); and
(g) Seek, in this regard, international cooperation and technical assistance from, among others, UNICEF and WHO.
5. Basic health and welfare (arts. 6; 18, para. 3; 23; 24; 26; 27, paras 1-3 of the Convention)
Health and health services
41. The Committee, while noting efforts to
reorganise maternity and child care services
and various programmes to improve children's
health, is concerned about the increase in
child morbidity including the increase of
HIV/AIDS among newborns, the almost epidemic
scope of tuberculosis, the high incidence
of iodine deficiency and nutrition problems,
especially among children from low income
households and families with three and more
children. It further notes the high rates
of transport and motor vehicle accidents and
the high rates of suicide affecting also children.
42. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) continue to implement the WHO Strategy on Promoting Effective Perinatal Care in order to further decrease maternal, perinatal, and infant mortality;
(b) ensure that all children, in particular children from the most vulnerable groups, have access to free basic health care of good quality;
(c) develop a national policy in order to ensure an integrated and multidimensional approach to early childhood development, with a focus on health and nutrition ;
(d) address the increase in HIV/AIDS in newborns focusing on the prevention of vertical transmission from mother to baby;
(e) in order to prevent childhood injuries, develop adequate legislation to protect children from accidents and injuries, include the prevention of injuries in national policy priorities and objectives and develop injury control programmes;
(f) undertake a comprehensive and multidisciplinary study to assess the scope and nature of suicide among children and develop adequate policies and programmes to prevent and combat this phenomenon; and
(g) continue technical assistance from, inter alia, WHO and UNICEF.
43. The Committee notes with concern the
rise in the number of children and adolescents
addicted to drugs, alcohol and smoking, the
high number of teenage abortions and the growing
number of cases of HIV/AIDS among the youth.
44. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Implement in an effective way the Comprehensive Nationwide Programme "Medical and recuperative activities targeted for adolescents" for the period 1999-2003 and the National Strategic Plan for HIV Prevention for 2001-2003, and increase its efforts to promote adolescent health, including mental health, policies. Due attention should be given particularly to reproductive health and substance abuse, and the programme of health education in schools should be further strengthened;
(b) Undertake a comprehensive and multidisciplinary study to assess the scope and nature of adolescent health problems, including the negative impact of STDs and HIV/AIDS, and continue to develop adequate policies and programmes;
(c) Undertake further measures, including the allocation of adequate human and financial resources, to evaluate the effectiveness of training programmes in health education, in particular as regards reproductive health, and to develop youth-sensitive and confidential counselling, care and rehabilitation facilities that are accessible without parental consent when this is in the best interests of the child; and
(d) Seek technical cooperation from, among others, UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO and UNAIDS.
45. The Committee notes with concern the
persisting negative consequences of the Chernobyl
disaster, including the increase of cases
among children of various diseases, including
cancer, immunological deficiencies and anaemia.
It further notes that assistance to people
affected by the Chernobyl disaster is strictly
humanitarian rather than focused on long-term
46. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) continue to improve the specialised health care provided to children affected by the Chernobyl disaster, including its psycho-social aspect;
(b) strengthen its efforts to early detect and prevent diseases related to nuclear contamination;
(c) focus more on a long-term developmental approach for the assistance to people.
Children with disabilities
47. The Committee, while noting efforts to
integrate children with disabilities, expresses
its concern at their increasing number and
at the practice of institutionalising them.
It further notes with concern that there is
insufficient support to families with disabled
48. In light of article 23 of the Convention, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Undertake studies to determine the causes of and ways to prevent disabilities in children;
(b) Undertake measures to ensure that the situation of children with disabilities is monitored in order to assess their situation and address their needs effectively;
(c) Conduct public awareness campaigns to raise awareness of the situation and the rights of children with disabilities;
(d) Allocate the necessary resources for programmes and facilities for all children with disabilities, especially the ones living in rural areas, and strengthen community-based programmes to enable them to stay at home with their families;
(e) Support the parents of children with disabilities with counselling and, when necessary, financial support;
(f) In light of the Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (General Assembly Resolution 48/96) and the Committee's recommendations adopted at its day of general discussion on "The Rights of Children with Disabilities" (CRC/C/69, paras.310-339), further encourage their integration into the regular educational system and inclusion into society, including by providing special training to teachers and by making schools more accessible.
6. Education, leisure and cultural activities
(arts. 28, 29, 31 of the Convention)
49. The Committee, while acknowledging the
State party's efforts to include human rights
in school curricula, notes with concern that
the availability of education in the Belarusian
language is getting increasingly limited,
from early childhood to secondary education.
Further, it notes that the rate of children
attending secondary education is decreasing
and that education standards, particularly
in the secondary system, vary greatly to the
disadvantage of lower-income neighbourhoods
and rural areas.
50. In light of articles 28 and 29 of the Convention:
(a) ensure the availability of education in the Belarusian language and accessibility for Roma children and those belonging to other minorities to good quality education;
(b) improve the quality of education in the whole country in order to achieve the goals mentioned in article 29(1), in line with the Committee's general comments No.1 on the aims of education.
7. Special protection measures
(arts. 22, 38, 39, 40, 37 (b)-(d), 32-36 of the Convention)
Trafficking, sexual and other forms of exploitation
51. The Committee is concerned about the
information that Belarus is a country of origin
and transit for trafficking of children, in
particular girls, for the purpose of sexual
and other forms of exploitation. The Committee
notes that there is a lack of information
and knowledge about this phenomenon and about
problems such as sexual exploitation, drug
abuse and the involvement of children in the
drug trade, and economic exploitation, often
related to trafficking.
52. In light of articles 32 to 36 of the Convention, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Undertake a study on the issue of trafficking and trafficking-related problems, such as sexual exploitation, drug abuse and the involvement of children in the drug trade, and economic exploitation, in order to assess their scope and causes and develop and implement effective monitoring and other measures to prevent them;
(b) Combat and eliminate child trafficking, sexual exploitation, drug abuse and trade and economic exploitation, including by developing social integration programmes, and
(c) Develop and adopt a national plan of action against sexual and commercial exploitation of children, taking into account 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 juvenile justice
53. The Committee reiterates its serious
concern (ibid., para.10) regarding the situation
in relation to the administration of juvenile
justice. While noting that under the new Penal
and Penal Procedure Code juvenile cases can
be considered by specially trained judges
and that there is a debate about setting up
a separate branch for juvenile justice, it
expresses its concern that a comprehensive
system is not established yet, that prosecutors
and lawyers are not trained to handle juvenile
cases, that detention is not used as a last
resort and that alternative measures to detention
are seldom applied. Further, it is noted that
conditions in juvenile detention centres are
very poor and offer little possibility for
54. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Expedite the establishment of a specific system of juvenile justice, including by ensuring its full independence and adequate human and financial resources;
(b) Continue reviewing laws and practices regarding the juvenile justice system in order to bring it as soon as possible into full compliance with the Convention, in particular articles 37, 40 and 39, as well as with other relevant international standards in this area, such as the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (the Beijing Rules) and the United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (the Riyadh Guidelines);
(c) Ensure that all persons under 18 benefit from special protection measures in the field of the administration of juvenile justice;
(d) Use detention, including pre-trial detention, only as a measure of last resort, for as short a time as possible and for no longer than the period prescribed by law and ensure that children are always separated from adults;
(e) Use alternative measures to pre-trial detention and other forms of deprivation of liberty whenever possible;
(f) Strengthen preventive measures, such as supporting the role of families and communities in order to help eliminate the social conditions leading to such problems as delinquency, crime and drug addiction;
(g) Incorporate into its legislation and practices the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of Their Liberty, in particular to guarantee them access to effective complaints procedures covering all aspects of their treatment;
(h) In light of article 39, take appropriate measures to promote the recovery and social reintegration of the children involved in the juvenile justice system;
(i) Seek assistance from, inter alia, OHCHR, the United Nations Centre for International Crime Prevention, the International Network on Juvenile Justice, UNICEF, and through the United Nations Coordination Panel on Technical Advice and Assistance on Juvenile Justice.
8. Dissemination of reports
55. Finally, the Committee recommends that, in light of article 44, paragraph 6, of the Convention, the second periodic report and written replies presented by the State party be made widely available to the public at large and that the publication of the report be considered, along with the relevant summary records and the concluding observations adopted by the Committee. 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 organisations.
9. Periodicity for submission of reports
56. The Committee underlines the importance of a reporting practice that is in full compliance with the provisions of article 44 of the Convention. An important aspect of States' responsibilities to children under the Convention includes ensuring that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has regular opportunities to examine the progress made in the Convention's implementation. In this regard, regular and timely reporting by State parties is crucial. The Committee recognises that some State parties experience difficulties in initiating timely and regular reporting. As an exceptional measure, in order to help the State party catch up with its reporting obligations in full compliance with the Convention, the Committee invites the State party to submit its combined third and fourth periodic reports by 30 October 2007, date of submission of the fourth periodic report.