The new report, ‘Rights, Remedies and Representation’, takes into account whether children can bring lawsuits when their rights are violated, the legal resources available to them, the practical considerations for taking legal action and whether international law on children’s rights is applied in national courts.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is not formally part of national law in Saint Lucia. Since ratification of the CRC, attempts have been made to incorporate its provisions into domestic law through amendments and new laws have been adopted to comply with the Convention.
Many laws are still contrary to the principles of the principles of the convention and it cannot be directly enforced in the courts. Despite this the CRC can be and has been cited for guidance by national and regional courts with jurisdiction over Saint Lucia.
Under the Civil Procedure Rules, children through their representatives, are entitled to bring civil cases in the courts to challenge violations of their rights and may also bring constitutional complaints or judicial review proceedings. The legal system is noted for being slow, leading to a backlog of cases and long stays in pre-trial detention.
Director of CRIN, Veronica Yates, said: “While the report highlights many examples of systems poorly suited to protecting children’s rights there are also plenty of people using the courts to effectively advance children’s rights.
“Our ranking represents how well States allow children access to justice rather than how well their rights are enshrined. However, it is hard to ignore how many countries with deplorable human rights records are on the lower end of the ranking for children’s access to justice.”
In the foreword of the report the chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Benyam Dawit Mezmur said: “The Committee welcomes this research and already envisages its concrete contribution to its various engagements with State Parties.
“Child rights standards in international instruments do not mean much for the lived reality of children if they are not implemented. In particular, if the fundamental rights of children are violated, it is critical that children or those acting on their behalf have the recourse, both in law and in practice, to obtain a remedy to cease, prohibit and/or compensate for the violation.
“I hope this study is only the beginning of a new shift in making access to justice for children a priority that will enable other rights to be fulfilled.”