COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 12, PARAGRAPH 1, OF THE OPTIONAL PROTOCOL TO THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD ON THE SALE OF CHILDREN, CHILD PROSTITUTION AND CHILD PORNOGRAPHY
Concluding observations : Oman
The Committee considered the initial report of Oman (CRC/C/OPSC/OMN/1) at its 1420th meeting (CRC/C/SR.1420), held on 9 June 2009, and adopted at its 1425th meeting, held on 12 June, the following concluding observations.
The Committee welcomes the submission of the State party’s initial report. The Committee further welcomes its written replies (CRC/C/OPSC/OMN/Q/1/Add.1) to the list of issues and appreciates the dialogue with a high-level and multisectoral delegation.
The Committee notes that the report does not fully comply with the reporting guidelines; it provides general information on the laws and regulations, but only limited information is provided on the practical implementation of the Protocol.
The Committee reminds the State party that the present concluding observations should be read in conjunction with its previous concluding observations adopted on the State party’s second periodic report on 29 September 2006 (CRC/C/OMN/CO/2) and with the concluding observations adopted on the initial report under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict on 12 June 2009 (CRC/C/OPAC/OMN/CO/1).
I. General observations
The Committee notes with appreciation:
(a) The Human Trafficking Act issued by Royal Decree No. 126/2008;
(b)The ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 6 January 2009.
The Committee regrets the lack of data related to the Protocol disaggregated by, inter alia, age, sex, origin, urban/rural areas, and the most vulnerable groups. The Committee regrets the position of the State party that there are no cases and notes the large numbers of foreign migrant children who are particularly vulnerable to violations of their rights.
The Committee recommends that the State party develop and implement a comprehensive and systematic mechanism of data collection, analysis, monitoring and impact assessment of all the areas covered by the Optional Protocol. The data should be disaggregated, inter alia, by the nature of the offence and by sex, age, national and ethnic origin, urban/rural areas, and socio-economic status, with particular attention to the most vulnerable groups of children. The Committee recommends that the State party seek technical support from, inter alia, UNICEF in relation to the above recommendation.
III. General measures of implementation
The Committee regrets the broad nature of the State party’s reservations and that no progress has been made in withdrawing, or limiting their extent, since the consideration of the State party’s second periodic report in 2006 (CRC/C/OMN/CO/2, para. 7).
The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation that the State party review its reservations with a view to withdrawing them, or limiting their extent, in accordance with the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights on 25 June 1993 (A/CONF.157/23). The Committee further recommends that the State party seek inspiration from other countries which have either withdrawn similar reservations or not entered any reservations to the Convention.
Coordination and evaluation of the implementation of the Optional Protocol
The Committee notes that the intersectoral Follow-up Committee on the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is responsible for coordinating the implementation of the Protocol, but is concerned that the Committee does not sufficiently take the Protocol into consideration.
The Committee recommends that the State party strengthen the Follow-up Committee on the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and ensure that coordination of the Protocol is incorporated into its operation, and that it has adequate human and financial resources in order to effectively carry out its mandate at all levels, including at the regional and local levels.
National Plan of Action
The Committee, while noting information in the State party’s reply to the list of issues that a draft national strategy on child welfare is being prepared, regrets that there is no National Plan of Action or strategy in place to combat the crimes under the Protocol.
The Committee recommends that the State party adopt a National Plan of Action to combat violations of the Convention and provisions of the Protocol, implement it in consultation with relevant actors, including children and civil society, and include a follow-up mechanism in the Plan.
Dissemination and training
The Committee, while noting as positive the awareness-raising and training activities carried out in the State party, is concerned that these activities primarily focus on the Convention and do not sufficiently take into account the provisions of the Protocol. The Committee is concerned that children, in particular non-Omani children, and relevant professionals in contact with them, are not sufficiently aware of the provisions of the Protocol.
The Committee recommends that the State party:
In line with article 9, paragraph 2, of the Protocol, make the provisions of the Protocol widely known to the public at large, including to non-Omani children, their families and communities, through, in particular the school curricula and long-term awareness-raising measures, including in a child-friendly manner;
Develop cooperation with civil society organizations and the media in order to support awareness-raising and training activities on the provisions of the Protocol;
Continue and strengthen systematic gender-sensitive education and training on the provisions of the Protocol for all professional groups working with child victims of such crimes, including, inter alia, the police, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, social workers and immigration officials;
Seek technical support from UNICEF and ILO in relation to the above recommendations.
Allocation of resources
The Committee notes that the State party has allocated some resources, but is concerned that these remain insufficient in order to implement the provisions of the Protocol. Furthermore, it notes, in particular, the lack of targeted resources for criminal investigations, legal assistance, and physical and psychological recovery measures for victims.
The Committee encourages the State party to increase budget allocations for the coordination, prevention, promotion, protection, care, investigation and prosecution of acts covered by the Protocol, including by earmarking adequate human and financial resources for the implementation of programmes relating to its provisions, and in particular for criminal investigations, legal assistance and physical and psychological recovery of victims, to relevant authorities and civil society organizations.
The Committee notes the establishment of the National Human Rights Committee by Royal Decree No. 124/2008, but notes that it has yet to become operational.
The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that the National Human Rights Committee is independent and complies with the Paris Principles and that it establish a designated children’s unit with adequate human and financial resources to receive, monitor and investigate complaints from, or on behalf of, children on violations of their rights, as well as recommend remedies. In this regard, the Committee draws the attention of the State party to its general comment No. 2 (2002) on the role of independent human rights institutions in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child.
IV. Prevention of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
(art. 9, paras. 1 and 2)
Measures adopted to prevent offences referred to in the Optional Protocol
The Committee notes the positive preventive initiatives taken by the State party, such as State oversight of the tourism industry. The Committee is concerned, however, that preventive measures are inadequate, in particular given the large migrant population in Oman, and that documentation and research on the root causes, nature and extent of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography are insufficient.
The Committee encourages the State party to carry out further documentation and gender-sensitive research on the nature and extent of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, in order to identify the root causes, the extent of the problems and preventive measures.
V. Prohibition of the sale of children, child pornography and child prostitution
and related matters (arts. 3, 4, paras. 2 and 3, 5, 6 and 7)
Existing criminal or penal laws and regulations
The Committee, while noting the adoption of the Human Trafficking Act issued by Royal Decree No. 126/2008, and its inclusion of legal persons, the Committee remains concerned that not all the offences covered by the provisions of the Protocol have been fully incorporated into the Penal Code, and regrets the lack of information on penal provisions relating to the sale of children and child pornography. Furthermore, the Committee notes the lack of information on whether the legislation has been enforced in practice.
The Committee recommends that the State Party revise and bring its Penal Code in full compliance with articles 2 and 3 of the Protocol and ensure that the law is enforced in practice.
The Committee notes that the adoption of a Children’s Act remains pending.
The Committee recommends that the State Party promptly adopt the Children’s Act and ensure that it is in conformity with the Convention and its Protocols, in order to further strengthen the protection of children’s rights.
The Committee notes that the State party may establish its jurisdiction over offences irrespective of the nationality of the victim.
The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that all necessary legal and practical measures be undertaken in order to effectively establish its jurisdiction over offences in accordance with article 4 of the Protocol.
The Committee takes note of bilateral agreements for the extradition of perpetrators of crimes covered by the Protocol, but is concerned that the State party does not rely on the Protocol as a legal basis for extradition.
The Committee recommends that the State party use the Protocol as a legal basis for extradition in conformity with article 5 of the Protocol.
VI. Protection of the rights of child victims (arts. 8 and 9, paras. 3 and 4)
Measures adopted to protect the rights and interests of child victims of offences prohibited under the Optional Protocol
The Committee reiterates its concern from 2006 (CRC/C/OMN/CO/2, para. 65) that insufficient measures have been undertaken to identify children who have been victims of offences under the Protocol, and in this regard draws attention to concerns raised by the Special Rapporteur on trafficking over the prevalence of trafficked children, including as domestic workers, following her mission to Oman in 2006 (A/HRC/4/23/Add.2, para. 80).
The Committee notes, further, that child victims may be re-victimized by being treated as offenders and that girls, who have been victims of child prostitution, may be criminalized, inter alia, on charges of zina and honour crimes.
The Committee recommends that the State party:
Develop comprehensive procedures for the early identification of child victims of offences under the Protocol;
Take all necessary measures, including legislative, to ensure that child victims of any of the crimes under the Optional Protocol are not criminalized. Child victims should be protected at all stages of the criminal justice process in accordance with article 8 of the Optional Protocol;
Allocate adequate financial and human resources to the competent authorities in order to ensure access to legal representation for all child victims;
Presume, if in doubt, that young victims of sexual exploitation are children, and not adults.
Ensure that judges and prosecutors are adequately trained on the provisions of the Protocol.
Furthermore, the Committee encourages the State party to be guided by the Guidelines on Justice in Matters involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime (Economic and Social Council resolution 2005/20) and should in particular:
Allow the views, needs and concerns of child victims to be presented and considered in proceedings where their personal interests are affected;
Use child-sensitive procedures to protect children from hardship during the justice process, including by using special interview rooms designed for children, child-sensitive methods of questioning, and by reducing the number of interviews, statements and hearings.
Recovery and reintegration
The Committee notes that social reintegration and physical and psychosocial recovery measures for child victims are inadequate and that victims face difficulties in accessing compensation.
The Committee recommends that the State party;
Ensure that resources are earmarked in order to strengthen social reintegration and physical and psychosocial recovery measures, in accordance with article 9, paragraph 3, of the Optional Protocol, in particular by providing interdisciplinary assistance for child victims;
Guarantee that all child victims of the offences described in the Optional Protocol have access to adequate procedures and to seek, without discrimination, compensation for damages from those legally responsible, in accordance with article 9, paragraph 4, of the Optional Protocol.
The Committee notes that regulations have been issued in order to gradually raise the age of camel jockeys to 18 years by 2009, yet notes the lack of information on available monitoring mechanisms and the application of sanctions for violations of using children for this purpose. The Committee is concerned that children are still at risk of being used as camel jockeys and also over the potential links between such practices and the trafficking of children.
The Committee recommends that the State establish monitoring mechanisms to ensure effective enforcement of the regulation to raise the age of camel jockeys to 18 years, conduct regular inspections of relevant venues and apply sanctions for those responsible for using children as camel jockeys. Furthermore, the Committee urges the State party to conduct awareness-raising of the negative impact that camel racing has on the health of children.
VII. International assistance and cooperation
The Committee recommends that the State party continue and strengthen international cooperation, including through the Abu Dhabi dialogue, in relation to the implementation of the provisions of the Optional Protocol, and conduct research to examine cross-border protection issues between Oman and its neighbouring countries. The State party is encouraged to seek technical support from, inter alia, UNICEF and ILO for the above purpose.
The Committee notes that insufficient information is provided with respect to the assistance and cooperation provided by the State party at all steps of the penal or criminal procedure with regard to the offences provided in article 3, paragraph 1, of the Optional Protocol, i.e. in detection, investigation, prosecution, punishment and extradition proceedings.
The Committee encourages the State party to provide more detailed information in this respect in its next report.
VIII. Follow-up and dissemination
The Committee recommends that the State party take all appropriate measures to ensure full implementation of the present recommendations, inter alia, by transmitting them to members of the cabinet and the bicameral Majlis (Majlis al-Dawla and Majlis al-Shura) and to the regions and governorates for appropriate consideration and further action.
The Committee recommends that the report and written replies submitted by the State party and related recommendations (concluding observations) adopted be made widely available, including through the Internet (but not exclusively), to the public at large, civil society organizations, the media, youth groups and professional groups in order to generate debate and awareness of the Optional Protocol, its implementation and monitoring. Furthermore, the Committee recommends that the State party make the Optional Protocol widely known to children and their parents through, inter alia, school curricula and human rights education.
IX. Next report
In accordance with article 12, paragraph 2, the Committee requests the State party to include further information on the implementation of the Optional Protocol in its consolidated third and fourth periodic report under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, due on 7 July 2012.