Submitting a complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
Children and groups of children within the jurisdiction of a signatory state have the right to submit a complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors the implementation of the Convention. A child or a group of children can submit a complaint, if they are of the opinion that a signatory state has violated their rights recognised by the Convention (FINLEX) or its optional protocols.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child will issue a statement and, if necessary, recommendations on the basis of the complaints it has investigated. 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. The main issues related to submitting an individual complaint are described below. The articles refer to the clauses of the Optional Protocol.
Who can submit a complaint?
an individual i.e. the child him- or herself
a group of children
another party on behalf of a child or group of children, if this person has the child's/children's consent or can give grounds for acting on behalf of the child/children without their consent.
On what kinds of issues can a complaint be submitted?
A complaint can be submitted on an issue, in which the complainant believes that the State of Finland has violated any of the rights of the complainant set forth in
- the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (FINLEX) or
- the Optional Protocols to the Convention:
When can a complaint be submitted?
A complaint can be submitted concerning a violation of rights that took place after 12 February 2016. A complaint can also be submitted, if the violation started before 12 February 2016 and continued after the date in question. This is the date of the entry into force of the complaint procedure in Finland.
Before submitting a complaint to 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 if there is no effective legal remedy available, by which the violation of the right can be redressed.
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 if 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 submitting a complaint. It is important that all of the questions on the form are answered carefully. Among other things, the complaint should specify whose rights have been violated and give a detailed explanation of what happened.
A form in English for submitting a complaint (OHCHR), including brief instructions and a delivery address
How will the complaint be processed by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child?
Articles 9, 10 and 11
When the Committee on the Rights of the Child receives a complaint, it first determines whether it can investigate the complaint: for instance, has the complaint been submitted in writing, does it include the name of the complainant, and whether it includes sufficient grounds.
The Committee's primary aim is to help the parties, i.e. the complainant and the State party, to reach a friendly settlement. 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 the complainant. For example, the Committee may issue a recommendation 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 with 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 (um.fi/en).
• The website of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs also includes information on submitting complaints to the different UN committees (um.fi) and appealing to the European Court of Human Rights (um.fi).
• You can ask the Legal Aid Office (oikeus.fi/en) about legal aid.
• Legal assistance when submitting a complaint can be obtained from an attorney or legal firm. Contact information of advocates can be found on the website of the Finnish Bar Association (asianajajaliitto.fi/en).