Ombudsperson for Children‘s Rights submitted a report for the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child
Ombudsperson for Children‘s Rights submitted a report (comment) for the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on the implementation of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in Lithuania in 2004 – 2008.
The Republic of Lithuania joined the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992 and ratified it in 1995. As part of commitments, Lithuania is obliged to provide reports on actions taken, progress made and difficulties arising while implementing the Convention.
In 2009 the Government of the Republic of Lithuania submitted a report for the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on the implementation of the Convention in Lithuania in 2004 – 2008. This year in October the Committee begins a preparation for consideration of the report in 2013, by reviewing the Government report and the information provided by non-governmental organisations and the Ombudsperson for Children‘s Rights.
In the opinion of an Ombudsperson for Children‘s Rights, during the reporting period sufficient attention was not given to the comments of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, elimination of defects and implementation of recommendations.
Although during the last twenty years legal framework of children’s rights protection has been improved, however the national legislation is still not fully compatible with the provisions of the Convention (e.g. on the issues of child protection from abuse and neglect, child protection from all forms of exploitation, assistance and rehabilitation for a child victim; etc.) and the legislation process is stagnant and slow.
Ombudsperson for Children‘s Rights pointed Committee’s attention to the problems of implementation of legal acts, lack of social services and their uneven distribution. Problems implementing legal acts arise from lack of state funding, professionals or their insufficient competence. Current infrastructure of social services does not satisfy the demand, they are mostly concentrated in urban areas and are difficult to access for the residents of rural areas.
Problem of cooperation and coordination of the institutional system of child’s rights protection remains relevant. Ministry of Social Security and Labour and State Child’s Rights Protection and Adoption Service are not able to perform the functions of a central child’s rights protection institution, since the decentralized child’s rights protection system is formed in the country. Municipal Child Rights Protection Services and their capability to perform the activities depend on the situation in a particular municipality, approach to the child’s rights protection problems, defined priorities of activities and influence of the municipal politics. Due to excessive workload, lack of competence, human and financial resources, Municipal Child Rights Protection Services are not able to fully perform their functions and pay attention to all areas of child’s rights protection. The situation is complicated by formal approach to the protection of child’s rights and legitimate interest from the institutions to which child’s rights protection is only an additional function.
Assessing the implementation of the principles of non-discrimination and the best interests of a child, the Ombudsperson for Children‘s Rights pointed that in practise proper implementation of these principles is not ensured although both principles and the obligation to ensure them is established in legal acts and other documents.
Non-discrimination principle is not ensured, especially for children belonging to vulnerable groups. It is assumed that the measures taken do not help to achieve the objectives desired due to the negative approach to instruments, designed for the elimination of discrimination, promotion of tolerance, and ensuring a possibility for every child to use his rights.
Although the principle of best interests of a child is used regarding the situation of children and making decisions related to them, there is a lack of understanding of the content and importance of this principle. When making the decisions (e.g. allocating financial resources, planning services etc.) the sufficient attention is not given to assess the impact for a child, often financial or other aspects are raised above the interests of a child. Declaring the principle of best interests of a child the actions substantially breaching the rights of a child might be justified. Child’s interests can be manipulated; interests of children and adults or other interests (e.g. when dealing with children with behaviour or health problems) might be opposed.
A child, especially if faced the justice system, is not guaranteed a proper protection of private life. Often adults seeking to solve the disputes over the child or in connection with the child use the media to prove their innocence, reasonableness of the requirements etc.
Ombudsperson for Children‘s Rights also drew Committee’s attention to the problems of child’s rights protection in the areas of family and care.
It should be mentioned that there is a lack of services and support (for example, day services for children, especially very young age; affordable child care after school services, aid at home services, services of psychologists or other experts) and information measures for parents (or other legal representatives), so they could properly implement their duties, represent and protect children’s rights, deal with child’s behaviour, education, health and other problems. Social services are provided only for social risk families.
Difficulties and problems arise while implementing parental rights, duties and responsibilities for child’s rights in cases when parents live separately (for example, one of the parents interferes and prevents the communication with a child, participation in his/her education; one of the parents avoids the responsibility to maintain a child or perform other duties). If parents do not agree on such issues by good faith, the disagreements should be settled in the court. If the court’s decision is not followed, there is a possibility to address the bailiff for a compulsory enforcement. Practise shows that such enforcement of judgements (especially the ones of non-monetary nature) is not effective; a child might be used as a tool by the adults for their own interests. In similar situations parents are not given (or there is no opportunity to give them) necessary support.
The attention should be drawn to the situation when a child is separated from his parents – in practise the problems arise due to improper legal regulation, lack of competence of certain authorities and approach of the persons’ responsible. In 2005 the debate was launched to regulate the issue of child’s removal from the family, in order to ensure adequate protection of child’s rights and smooth practise of interpretation and implementation of legal acts. Unfortunately, the initiatives in this area have not been implemented.
The problem of preserving family ties in case of separation of children from their parents (in cases when the child care is set, children are settled in the socialisation centre, prison, etc.) is also discussed (although the separation is in child’s interests). Communication in such cases might be aggravated by financial problems (e.g. parents do not have enough resources to visit a child in another city), negative attitude of foster parents towards parents’ communication with a child and other reasons. In other cases parents (guardians) terminate the contact with a child who, because of behaviour problems or offences committed, is transferred to the socialisation centre or a correctional facility. Negative approach of communities and professionals towards these children also has an impact on termination of communication and their further integration into society.
In a comment provided for the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child problems arising from the child’s protection from the exploitation, neglect and negligent treatment, child’s rights protection and support for children, health care and welfare, education, juvenile justice, also problems arising from other areas, are brought to attention.