Samoa has been a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC) since November 1994.
CROC is the most ratified human rights convention, with 193 state parties, which is almost every country in the world. The only countries which are not party to the Convention are the United States, Somalia, and the new states of South Sudan and Kosovo. CROC protects the rights of children, every human being below the age of 18. Rights under CROC are to be applied without distinction or discrimination of any kind. Rights enshrined in the Convention include the rights to:
-a name and nationality;
-not to be separated from his or her parents except when separation is deemed necessary by law for the best interests of the child;
-freedom of expression;
-freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
-freedom of association and peaceful assembly;
-protection from physical and mental violence;
-prevention of trafficking and exploitation of children.
Some of the rights from the ICCPR are applied specifically to children, such as freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and deprivation of liberty. The Convention also outlines various rights relating to:
-children with disabilities;
-children in the penal system;
-participation of children in civil legal proceedings.
CROC also obligates state parties to respect the rules of international humanitarian law, including by not recruiting children less than 15 years into the armed forces and ensuring that such children do not take part in hostilities.
CROC also has three Optional Protocols (OPs): the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (2000); the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (2000); and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure (2011). Samoa is not a party to any of the OPs.
Samoa’s Reporting Obligations
Under the Convention, state parties are required to submit their initial report within two years of the entry into force of the Convention in that state, and thereafter every five years. Samoa’s initial report was submitted in 2005, and considered by the Committee in 2006, with concluding observations offered in September 2006.
The principle areas of concern and recommendations included Samoa’s reservation to Article 28(1)(a) of the Convention, which requires state parties to make primary education compulsory and available free to all. While Samoa has not yet removed this reservation, in 2010, legislation was enacted that requires children between 5 years and 14 years of age to attend school. The Education Act 2009 also allows for parents or carers to apply for a fee waiver if they are unable to afford the school fees for their child/children (s. 53).
Other areas of concern and recommendations from the Committee included:
-increased resources allocated to children’s rights;
and a number of other recommendations.
The NHRI will advise the Government on its reporting obligations under CROC and on the content of those reports, as well as assist Government Ministries and agencies with the implementation of obligations under CROC. The Ombudsman will also take into account CROC rights when reviewing any existing or proposed legislation, to ensure that any legislation is in accordance with Samoa’s CROC obligations.