The UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure entered into force in Finland on 12 February 2016. Children and groups of children under the jurisdiction of a State party have the right to submit complaints to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which supervises the implementation of the Convention, if they consider the State party to be acting in breach of their rights as recognised under the Convention or the two Optional Protocols relating to its contents. The Committee on the Rights of the Child will issue a statement and, if necessary, recommendations on the basis of complaints that it accepts for investigation.
This page includes a brief description of the main elements involved when submitting individual complaints. The articles refer to the clauses of the Optional Protocol. The precise text of the Protocol can be checked from the Finnish translation available via the above link.
Who can submit a complaint?
On what kinds of issues can a complaint be submitted?
A complaint can be submitted on an issue concerning which the complainant believes that the Finnish state has infringed his or her rights, where this is confirmed
When can a complaint be submitted?
Complaints can be submitted in the case of an infringement of rights occurring after 12 February 2016 or, if the violation had already begun before 12 February 2016, it must have continued thereafter. This is the date of the entry into force of the complaint procedure in Finland.
Before filing a complaint with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, redress must be sought through all existing domestic remedies. This means, for example, that appeals have been made on the matter as far as possible under Finnish law, which in most cases means all the way up to the Supreme Court or the Supreme Administrative Court. You may also submit a complaint if proceedings in a court of law take an unreasonably long time or no effective legal remedy, by which the violation of the right can be redressed, is available.
Any complaint must be submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child no later than one year after all effective legal remedies have been sought in the home country i.e. after a final verdict has been given on the issue in the Supreme Court or the Supreme Administrative Court, for example. Exceptions can be made if the complainant has a valid reason for having been unable to submit a complaint at an earlier time.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will not accept a complaint for investigation if it has already examined the same issue or the issue is already being, or has been, handled in another international investigation or settlement procedure. For example, this means that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will not handle a complaint which the European Court of Human Rights has already decided to process.
How to submit a complaint
A complaint must be submitted in writing in English or in any of the UN’s other official languages i.e. Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, French or Russian.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has drawn up a form, which should be used for assistance when filing a complaint. It is important that all of the questions on the form are answered carefully. Among other matters, the complaint should specify whose rights have been violated and give a detailed explanation of what happened.
You can find the English-language form, which also includes brief instructions on filing a complaint and the address to which the complaint can be sent, online
How is a complaint handled by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child?
Articles 9, 10 and 11
When an appeal is received by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee begins by assessing whether the complaint is of a type which it can investigate. Among other issues, the Committee clarifies whether the complaint has been made in writing, whether it bears the name of the complainant and whether it has been made on sufficient grounds.
The Committee’s primary aim is to help the parties (the complainant and the State party) to arrive at an amicable solution. If this is achieved, the handling of the complaint concludes with the acceptance of the solution. Otherwise, the Committee will continue to handle the issue.
Complaints are handled confidentially by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in meetings in which no unauthorised persons can participate. They are also treated confidentially by the State party, from which the Committee will request a report on the issues described in the complaint.
Once the Committee has processed the complaint, it will give its opinion and any recommendations on the issue to the State party and complainant, for example on how the State party might compensate the complainant for the violation of its rights, or how similar violations could be prevented in the future. The State party should inform the Committee, within six months, of what measures it has taken or intends to take in response to the Committee’s statements or recommendations.
Where to get help in submitting a complaint?
For further details on submitting a complaint, turn to the Unit for Human Rights Courts and Conventions of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Contact information http://formin.fi/public/default.aspx?contentid=289810&nodeid=15997&contentlan=2&culture=en-US
The website of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs also contains information on submitting complaints to various UN committees http://formin.fi/public/default.aspx?nodeid=49305&contentlan=1&culture=fi-FI (in finnish)
and on appeals to the European Court of Human Rights http://formin.finland.fi/Public/default.aspx?nodeid=49304&culture=fi-FI&contentlan=1 (in finnish)
You can enquire about legal advice from the Legal Aid Office, contact information http://www.oikeus.fi/oikeusapu/en/index.html
Legal assistance when submitting a complaint can be obtained from an attorney or legal firm. The contact information of advocates can be found on the website of the Finnish Bar Association, for example, http://www.asianajajaliitto.fi/en/legal_services/find_a_lawyer