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COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD EXAMINES REPORTS OF SLOVAKIA ON SALE OF CHILDREN, CHILDREN AND ARMED CONFLICT
23 January 2013

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today reviewed the initial report of Slovakia on its implementation of the provisions of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the initial report on the implementation of the provisions of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Fedor Rosocha, Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, introduced the two reports presented under the Optional Protocols and said that in 2013, Slovakia would also sign and ratify the Third Optional Protocol.

Mr. Rosocha said the report under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography outlined the recent legislative changes in Slovakia: criminalization of a number of acts related to child trafficking, sexual abuse and child prostitution, and adoption of legislative measures in matters of the protection of the child.  The human trafficking information system would become operational in February 2013 and would also contain data on minors.  One of the main challenges in 2013 would be the opening of the Office of Ombudsman for Children as an independent mechanism for receiving and examining complaints by children and monitoring of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in line with the Paris Principles.

Turning to the report submitted under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, Ambassador Rosocha said that the minimal age of voluntary draft to the armed forces was set at 18 years.  The Army received regular training in international humanitarian law and international human rights law, while operational units preparing for participation in operations of crisis management under the leadership of the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union received special training in international humanitarian law, human rights and the rights of the child.

In the discussion on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Committee Experts recognized the progress made by Slovakia in combating human trafficking and asked for additional information concerning the National Programme to combat human trafficking 2011-2014, the number of cases initiated by the Public Defender of Rights on behalf of children for offences under the Optional Protocol, and the measures to protect children most at risk of exploitation and abuse, such as Roma children and young people leaving the foster care system.  Experts were interested in hearing more about measures to prevent trafficking, combat cyber crimes and about research on root causes of prostitution and exploitation.

On the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Committee Experts inquired about concrete measures to implement the provisions of the Optional Protocol and about the body in charge of coordination.  They noted that domestic law criminalized and punished the recruitment of children under the age of 15, and said that the recruitment of children aged 15 to 18 needed to be criminalized too.  Slovakia received refugees and unaccompanied children, some from areas affected by armed conflict, and Experts recommended the establishment of a mechanism to identify children involved in armed conflict.

In concluding remarks, Aseil Al-Shehail, Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the Report under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, encouraged Slovakia to take action for the benefit of vulnerable children such as Roma that would cover the full range of offences under the Optional Protocol and not only trafficking. 

Gehad Madi, Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the Report under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, said that Slovakia was complying with the core of the Optional Protocol, which was the recruitment age, and noted that additional legislation and administrative action were needed for full compliance.

Also in concluding observations, Ambassador Rosocha appreciated the importance of the Committee whose activities and comments were extremely beneficial for the country in terms of increasing compliance with its human rights obligations. 

Marta Mauras, the Committee Expert acting as Chairperson, in closing remarks thanked the delegation and said that today’s exchange was very useful for the Committee.

The delegation of Slovakia consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport, Presidium of Police Force and the Permanent Mission Slovakia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 1 February at 12 a.m. at Palais Wilson, when it will adopt its concluding recommendations on the State party reports reviewed, and close the session.

Reports

The initial report of Slovakia under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography can be read here: (CRC/C/OPSC/SVK/1), and the initial report under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict here: (CRC/C/OPAC/SVK/1).

Statement by the Delegation

FEDOR ROSOCHA, Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, introducing the two reports which were presented to the Committee in November 2009, said that Slovakia had made significant progress in protecting the rights of the child and the legal and institutional mechanisms now corresponded to the highest European standards.  Slovakia would sign and ratify the Third Optional Protocol in the course of 2013.

Turning to the report under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Ambassador Rosocha said that Slovakia criminalized acts of displacement abroad, human trafficking, child trafficking for purposes of adoption, child labour, child prostitution, sexual violence, sexual abuse and benefitting from or enabling child prostitution.  Several legislative measures had been adopted in matters of the protection of the child, most important among which was the amendment of the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure; criminal sanctions were introduced in the Criminal Code in 2010 in the form of protective measures against legal entities.  The National Programme on the Fight against Human Trafficking 2011-2014 aimed to ensure a comprehensive and effective national strategy in combating human trafficking and creating the conditions to provide support, help and protection of the victims.  The Arbitration Council and the Working Group to build a human trafficking information system had been established to create the technical specification for the unified and harmonized system of data collection.  The system, which also contained data on minors, would become operational in February 2013.  One of the main challenges in 2013 would be acceleration of the opening of the Office of Ombudsman for Children as an independent mechanism, in line with the Paris Principles, that would receive and examine complaints by children and monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Right of the Child.  This Office should be incorporated in the organizational structure of the Public Defender of Rights.

Concerning the report submitted under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Head of Delegation said that the minimal age of voluntary draft to the armed forces was set at 18 years.  Compulsory draft was carried out only in case of a risk to national security, or at a time of war and state of war.  The laws of Slovakia did not allow the activity of armed organized forces other than the national army and the police.  The law prohibited physical and legal entities from owning military arms and automated firearms without a special permit, and the possession of arms for personal protection to persons under the age of 18.  The Army received regular training in international humanitarian law and international human rights law, while operational units preparing for participation in operations of crisis management under the leadership of the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union received special training in international humanitarian law, human rights and the rights of the child.  

Examination of the report under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography

Questions by Experts

ASEIL AL-SHEHAIL, Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the Report of Slovakia under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, recognized the progress made by Slovakia in combating human trafficking and noted the supremacy of legal instruments in the domestic legislation which reflected the commitment of the Government to human rights.  Concerning the National Programme to combat human trafficking 2011-2014, the Country Rapporteur asked the delegation to provide information on some concrete measures undertaken by the programme, resources for its implementation, and about a plan that covered all issues under the Optional Protocol.  The most at risk were Roma children and young people leaving the foster care system; what was being done to ensure support to those groups and could the delegation comment on difficulties in the identification of child victims?  The Public Defender of Rights was an independent monitoring mechanism in the country; was data available on the number of cases initiated on behalf of children on offences criminalized under the Optional Protocol?  A helpline should be considered as a central part of the child protection system; were resources allocated to ensure that its operation and capacity met international standards?  The Committee regretted the lack of adequate information concerning the State budget allocated for the implementation of the Optional Protocol and the lack of transparency in the presentation of available information, particularly in the area of protecting and reintegrating the victims.  What had been done to ensure adequate financing?  What additional measures were being undertaken to curb corruption and eradicate the practice of bribery of the police and authorities?  How was the growing availability of child pornography on the Internet being addressed and how had the Government partnered the Internet industry in this regard?

Another Expert took up the issue of extraterritorial extradition and said that the State did not extend protection to its citizens abroad, particularly children, when crimes were committed against them.  The extradition of a person was permissible by the law: was Slovakia using the Optional Protocol as a basis for extradition?

The delegation was further asked to comment on the substance of the legislation on the criminal liability of legal entities and whether they truly had legal and criminal liability; activities to prevent trafficking and the measures to support the most vulnerable such as Roma, including birth registration, protection from stigmatization and separation; combating cyber crimes and cyber bullying of children; research on root causes of prostitution and exploitation and on profiles of perpetrators; and cooperation with the tourism industry to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.

Turning to the issue of adoption and forced adoption, the Committee Chairperson said that as per the provisions of the Optional Protocol those should be punished as a crime, but this was not the case in the Slovakian legislation.  The age of sexual consent in the country was 15, which put children between the ages of 15 and 18 at risk of prostitution, while they should be completely protected until the age of 18.  According to the legislation, it was up to the judge to decide whether a child could be heard in legal proceedings, which might be too flexible as some children needed to avoid the risk of re-victimization.

Response by Delegation

In response to these questions and comments, the delegation said every person declaring himself or herself a minor was treated as a child; he or she were placed in facilities designed for children and treated as unaccompanied minors.  During the asylum procedure, the determination of age was undertaken, such as through the use of x-rays.  Until the age was determined, the person in question was treated as a child. 

Organized corruption within the police force was being actively combated and there were specific units within the Ministry of Interior focusing on uncovering and prosecuting corrupt behaviour among the police officers.  Organized corruption within the police force was considered among the most grievous crimes.

Preventive measures were aimed at various target groups, including children, parents and other relevant groups, and preventive campaigns used various communication techniques, particularly the Internet.  Most recently there had been efforts to combine campaigns with events; for instance Kosice was a European Capital of Culture and campaigns were undertaken to raise awareness of issues of relevance to the Optional Protocol.  There were two help lines active in Slovakia, one of which was operated by the United Nations Children Fund.  The groups vulnerable to crimes under the Optional Protocol were considered protected persons by the legislation and perpetrators of crimes against those persons received increased sanctions. 

Field social work was being used in working with marginalized communities and 30,700 clients were participating in this programme; the local administration also took part in this work.  The aim of the field social work was to provide tailored assistance to the clients according to their individual needs.  Additional training would be provided to social workers, which would also include information on the identification of victims of trafficking. 

The draft amendment of the Criminal Code was a preparation for ratification of the Lanzarote Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse; it introduced new definitions of child prostitution, and would ensure better implementation of the provisions of the Lanzarote Convention.  As a member of the European Union, Slovakia was responding to directives related to legislation, including on the fight against sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children, and to directives related to the prevention of trafficking in persons and combating trafficking and working with the victims of trafficking.  The definition of the child in legislation was being enlarged to include any person under the age of 18, thus extending the scope of protection as well.  The amendment of the Criminal Code was an ongoing legislative project and was expected to come in force in May 2013.

Committee Experts asked whether social workers could use any other language but Slovak in communication with clients, considering the law on the use of language and the high penalties for offenders, and about the methods they used to maintain documentation and records.

In response, the delegation said that social protection measures covered all children in crises regardless of whether they were Roma or not; each child was considered individually and his or her needs were met individually.  The child was a subject of social work and his or her opinion was sought on all the measures involving that child.  Communication with a foreign child was done in a language the child could understand.  The issue of Roma was a complex one which was relevant for the whole region and not only Slovakia.

In terms of education, children from socially disadvantaged environments and children with special needs were entitled to assistance of a specialized teacher at kindergarten or primary school levels.  The Government had allocated in 2012 Euro 6.5 million for the education of children from socially disadvantaged environments. 

Children were monitored for any signs of exploitation and abuse and a series of actions were taken by the authorities to ensure their full protection.  Children were sensitized to the dangers of the Internet and received information about human rights.  There were state, private and church schools in Slovakia, some of which offered curricula in national minority languages such as Hungarian, German and Ukrainian.

In order to address online child abuse of children a number of programmes were put in place, implemented in cooperation with the police and civil society.  There were web pages with information about online abuse, assistance was offered to children already being targeted in online grooming, and children were educated about dangers of the Internet in appropriate forms such as cartoons.  In terms of the budget allocated for the implementation of the provisions of the Optional Protocol, several institutions were involved in the implementation of programmes and activities, and resources were included in their respective budgets.

The second programme to combat human trafficking 2011-2014 had been designed without a comprehensive evaluation and assessment of the first programme 2008-2010.  There was no comprehensive system of monitoring of online activities and the authorities realized the fact that most cases of child abuse on the Internet were made as an organized criminal activity and in this regard, Slovakia relied on cooperation with colleagues with other European countries.  Most of the cases were trans-border in nature.

International adoptions were conducted by the State authorities and monitoring of the procedures did not bring up any issues or irregularities.  Children adopted abroad were monitored until the age of 18; last year, 40 children had been adopted abroad from Slovakia. 

A Committee Expert asked about the Parliamentary inquiry in the situation of 357 older Roma children adopted to Italy in which child trafficking was suspected.  In response, the delegation said that the issue had been blown out of proportion by the media.

The extraterritorial extradition in crimes against children still needed to be regulated and the Ministry of Justice had ongoing discussions with the Office of the Prosecutor General in this matter.

Examination of the report under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict

Questions by Experts

GEHAD MADI, Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the Report of the United States under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, welcomed the 2006 abolition of obligatory recruitment in the armed forces and the fact that the minimum age of entry into service was 18 years of age, which was in line with international standards.  How did Slovakia implement the provisions of the Optional Protocol and how many complaints were received by the Ombudsmen for crimes under the Optional Protocol?  Which body was in charge of coordination of the implementation of the provisions of the Optional Protocol and how were those provisions included in training and public awareness programmes?  Domestic law criminalized and punished the use and recruitment of children under the age of 15, but recruitment of children under the age of 18 must be criminalized as well.  There remained only one secondary military school in the country; how many students attended the school and what was its curriculum?  Slovakia received unaccompanied children and refugees; what procedures were in place to determine whether any of those children were involved in armed conflict and what protective measures were available?

Other Experts asked the delegation about the legal liability of private military and defence companies, extraterritorial jurisdiction, whether recruitment of children aged 15 to 19 was criminalized, arms manufacturing in Slovakia and sale of weapons to regions at risk of using children in armed conflict, and the system of verification and control of weapons in transit.

Response by Delegation

Responding to these questions and comments and others, the delegation said the Ministry of Defence had the primary responsibility for the implementation of the provisions of the Optional Protocol, and it closely cooperated with a number of other institutions and agencies, such as with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the State Committee for the International Humanitarian Law.  The main task of the National Action Plan for Children 2012 in relation to the Optional Protocol was related to the drafting of the report submitted to the Committee in 2009.  The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs was in charge of coordinating activities and implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

Non-residents and foreigners wishing to assume voluntary obligation could do so assuming they were older than 19 years.  Applicants to join the armed forces in a role of professional officers must be Slovak citizens, have permanent residency in Slovakia and be older than 18.  The issue of child soldiers was not a problem in Slovakia.

Both the Act 300 and Act 301 of 2005 referred to the implementation of the provisions of the Optional Protocol.  The Criminal Code criminalized all war crimes listed in article 8 of the Rome Statute.

Experts noted that the Rome Statute considered the recruitment of children under the age of 15 a war crime, but the Committee was concerned about children aged 15 to 18 years.  The delegation said that the draft amendment of the Criminal Code that would enter into force in May 2013 would define the child as any person younger than 18, but would not specifically criminalize recruitment of children aged 15 to 18.

Persons arriving to Slovakia as refugees or asylum seekers and claiming they were children were treated as such until the age determination procedure would prove differently.  There had been no cases in Slovakia of child soldiers or children involved in armed conflict and the capacities of officials to identify and treat them were not up to date; this issue would be included in the curriculum of border guards as of 2013.

Concerning weapons trade licensing, the delegation said that new legislation was in place that created unitary regime of licensing which fully reflected international legal and political commitments Slovakia had accepted.  This legislation required an end user certificate before license was granted and gave a possibility of refusing transfer of weapons if there were indications that those weapons might be misused.   

A Committee Expert returned to the issue of child soldiers and while recognizing that there were no such cases in Slovakia, noted that the country received refugees and asylum seekers from areas affected by armed conflicts, which indicated a need for an identification mechanism to exist, even on paper.

The delegation reiterated that the issue of child soldiers would be included in the curriculum of border officers in 2013 especially as in 2012, a higher number of asylum seekers arrived to Slovakia from areas at risk, particularly from Somalia.  Suspected child soldiers were referred to psychologists and if it was established that children were abused as soldiers, they were granted asylum.

The Trenčín high school was not a military school; it was a secondary technical aviation school with a civilian curriculum.  Private military companies were considered legal persons so the criminal laws that applied to other companies also applied to them.  The Criminal Code dealt with the criminal responsibility of legal persons, which in Slovakia was limited. The delegation agreed to send additional information on this issue in writing.

The delegation then turned to outstanding questions asked by the Committee in the context of the Optional Protocol on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and said that for the period 2009-2011, no cases had been initiated on behalf of children for offences under the Optional Protocol by the ombudsman’s office – The Public Defender of Rights.

Concerning the Parliamentary inquiry into the adoption of older Roma children in Italy, the delegation said that the reports received from the Italian authorities did not indicate any wrongdoings and Slovakia had no reason to doubt its European partner.  There were some criminal charges filed in connection with the case, but that was not to say that criminal proceedings into the matter had been initiated.  The work of persons under the age of 15 or before completion of compulsory education was prohibited by the law; children could only perform work in sporting and advertising sectors and only with the permission of labour inspectors.  In Slovakia it was possible to extend stays in orphanages until the age of 25 and, upon leaving, they benefitted from a support and monitoring system in place.


Concluding Remarks

ASEIL AL-SHEHAIL, Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the Report of Slovakia under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, encouraged Slovakia to take action for the benefit of vulnerable children such as Roma that would cover the full range of offences under the Optional Protocol and not only trafficking.  The Committee stressed the importance of closer partnership with civil society to identify child victims, protect them and assist with their rehabilitation.

GEHAD MADI, Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the Report of Slovakia under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, said that the sole purpose of the dialogue was to better understand how the provisions of the Optional Protocol were implemented and to better identify the gaps and close them.  Slovakia was complying with the core of the Optional Protocol, which was the recruitment age, and there was a need for some legislation and administrative action to be fully compliant. 

FEDOR ROSOCHA, Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Slovakia appreciated the importance of the Committee and perceived its activities, comments and evaluations as extremely beneficial for the country in terms of increasing its compliance with its human rights obligations.  Slovakia would continue to take part in dialogues and would make maximum efforts to implement the concluding observations of the Committee.

MARTA MAURAS, Committee Expert acting as the Chairperson, thanked the delegation and said that the exchange today was useful for the Committee.


For use of the information media; not an official record

CRC13/010E