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Timor-Leste must take more measures to protect children, says the committee

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Reviewing the initial report of Timor-Leste, the Committee on the Rights of the Child urged the government to implement a core package of measures for the protection and the promotion of rights of the child on 17 January. The measures included placing legislation to protect children, establishing birth registration system and compulsory education system.
(Bangkok) Reviewing the initial report of Timor-Leste on implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Committee on the Rights of the Child stressed on 17 January the need for the country to implement a core package of measures.

A core package of measures included placing legislation to protect children, establishing birth registration system and compulsory education system.

Even if the country is facing certain constraints, the committee suggested that “such measures should not be confined to one or two areas, should be multisectoral in nature. With children it could not be a question of health alone or birth registration or education alone, as each achievement would feed into each other”.

The committee also suggested seek for assistance from international partners, including UN partners. The committee urged Timor-Leste to urgently put in place legislation to protect the child, whether or not they decided to implement a comprehensive Children’s Code.

The committee is a treaty-based body under the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The review took place during its 47th Session. The committee also examined the country’s initial reports under the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

The Committee also emphasised the need to mainstream the right of the child to be heard and to consider the best interests of the child in any decision concerning them. A collection of data is also essential, which is disaggregated to allow the Government to target particularly vulnerable groups. Furthermore, the Committee urged Timor-Leste to act immediately to establish birth registration, free of charge to everyone. Other recommendations included compulsory and free education system.

In additional preliminary observations, for the report on the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, the committee underlined that the law in Timor-Leste provided an age limit of 18 years to be enlisted in the Armed Services. However, the Committee advised the government to formulate a specific provision to criminalise the recruitment of those under age 18. “Birth registration, in particular, formed a critical part of the guarantee that children are recruited, and that is an area that needed to be worked on. Provision of assistance and counselling for former child soldiers is necessary and it is hoped that rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for such children will be put in place”, the committee stated.

Also making preliminary remarks, for the report on the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, the committee showed its understanding on the opportunities to implement and take steps to combat the sale of children or those involved in prostitution and child pornography.

The expert committee recommended the government to work very quickly to set up a database and gather information about children in the area, and also to adopt legislation and implement it right away to give effect to the Protocol, in particular to cover the offences covered by the Protocol in the national Penal Code.

It also made recommendations on procedures to protect the child victims of crimes under the Protocol. The committee said that public awareness, dissemination of the Protocols and knowledge creation in the country about its provisions are essential. The committee concluded that “the awareness-raising on children's rights issues is not just for the public, the government also has to be made aware. It is the best investment that could be made for the country's future”.

The Committee also urged Timor-Leste to adopt national trafficking legislation as soon as possible, and to ratify possible International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions 138 and 182, and the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

Since gaining independence in 2002, Timor-Leste has endeavoured to place human rights as a major agenda for nation's development. This was secured by the strong emphasis placed on human rights in the Constitution of Timor-Leste and the ratification of most of the core human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols were acceded to in 2003, and the initial reports were submitted in 2007.