Building a Europe for and with children

                   Council of Europe conventions on children's rights

Nb. the links provided give easy access to: the treaty, its chart of signatures, a list of declarations, communications and reservations, a summary of the treaty, and its explanatory memorandum. The titles of the conventions are followed by their European Treaty Series number (ETS/CTS), the year the convention was opened for signature, and the year it entered into force. 

Other useful information is available at the
Treaty Office,  Directorate of Legal Advice and Public International Law. For a brief description of treaty making see Conventions/treaties where do they come from?

The core conventions

Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms   
(ETS No. 005: 1950/1953)

 This Convention, known as  the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), protects civil and political rights, and contains the core values of the Council of Europe. Article 1 states that the articles of the Convention should "apply to everyone within their jurisdiction".

Although the text of the convention makes few specific references to children, some of its articles have been used by the European Court of Human Rights and the Commission to protect and promote children's rights.

 The  articles most frequently invoked to protect children are Article  2 (right to life), Article  3 (prohibition of torture) Article 4 (prohibition of slavery and forced labour) Article 5 (right to liberty and security), Article 6 (right to a fair trial) and Article 8 (respect for private and family life).  Much of the Convention case law concerning violence against children  has centred on corporal punishment, but has direct relevance for all violence against children.

European Social Charter
(ETS No. 035: 1961/1965)

The European Social Charter complements the European Convention on Human Rights in the field of economic and social rights. The Charter is a major European treaty which secures children's rights and in many circumstances it guarantees their rights  from birth to adulthood.

Revised European Social Charter
 (ETS No. 163: 1996/1999)

The revised Charter is gradually replacing the European Social Charter. Many of its provisions have specific relevance to children, for example Article 16 (right of the family to social, legal and economic protection) which protects the rights of children as family members, and Article 11 (right to  protection of health).

Rights relating exclusively to children are:  Article 7 (the right of children and young persons to protection) and Article 17 (the right  of children and young persons to social, legal and economic protection). Article 17.1 integrates  the rights  guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into the revised Charter.

The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) was set up to judge the conformity of national law and practice with the Charter. It is composed of independent members elected by the Committee of Ministers for a period of six years. Under a 1995 protocol,  collective complaints procedure may be lodged to the ECSR by certain international organisations of employers and trade unions, certain NGOs, and employers' organisations and trade unions in the country concerned.

The ECSR has broadened the scope of  Article 7.10, which "ensures special protection against physical and moral dangersto cover the protection of children against trafficking and the misuse of information technologies. To learn more, see the ECSR website.

European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 
(ETS No. 126: 1987/1989)

This convention provides non-judicial preventive machinery to protect detainees. It is based on a system of visits by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT).

The committee frequently visits  establishments where young persons are present, such as young offender institutions, police stations, prisons, social welfare homes, etc.  The CPT has developed standards for the protection of juveniles deprived of their liberty: see its 9th General Report.

Other conventions on  children's rights

Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence  
(ETS No. 210: 2011/)

The European Convention on the Adoption of Children (Revised) 
(CETS No. 202: 27 November 2008/ 2011 )

Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse 
(CETS No. 201: 2007/2010)

This is the first international treaty to criminalise sexual abuse. Preventive measures include the screening, recruitment and training of people working in contact with children, making children are aware of the risks and teaching them to protect themselves, as well as monitoring measure for offenders and potential offenders. The convention also establishes programmes to support victims, and sets up help lines for children. It ensures that certain types of conduct are classified as criminal offences and criminalises the use of new technologies to sexually harm or abuse children. To combat child sex tourism, the convention establishes that individuals can be prosecuted for some offences committed abroad in legality, when the perpetrator returns to his or her country of nationality.

Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings 
(CETS No. 197: 2005/2008)

This convention recognises that all forms of trafficking in human beings are a violation of human rights and requires states to protect its victims, whether men, women or children. It applies to all forms of exploitation whether sexual, forced labour or services.
Specific provisions take into account  the vulnerability of children and their need for special protection and assistance.

Convention on Contact concerning Children  
(ETS No. 192: 2003/2005)

This convention determines the general principles to be applied when making or amending contact orders or agreements and establishes appropriate safeguards and guarantees to ensure the proper exercise of such contact and the immediate return of the child at the end of the contact period, in particular in cases of transfrontier contact. 

Convention on Cybercrime
(ETS No. 185: 2001/2004)

The preamble refers to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Labour Organization Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention.
Article 9 refers to offences related to child pornography and states that parties shall adopt "legislative and other measures to criminalise various specified uses of computers involving child pornography".

European Convention on the Exercise of Children's Rights  
(ETS No. 160: 1996/2000)

This convention aims to promote children's rights and protect their best interests. It provides procedural measures to allow children to exercise their rights, including the obligation to provide them with the relevant information to do so, in particular in family proceedings before judicial authorities.
Among the types of family proceedings of special interest for children are those concerning custody, residence, access, questions of parentage, legal guardianship, protection from cruel or degrading treatment, etc.
The Standing Committee set up by the convention (T-ED)  considers questions on its interpretation and implementation, proposes amendments, and assists national bodies which  perform the functions cited in Article 12.2.

European Convention on the Legal Status of Children born out of Wedlock
(ETS No. 085: 1975/1978)

The object of this convention is to assimilate the legal status of a child born out of wedlock with that of a child born in wedlock, and contribute to the harmonisation of the states' laws in this field.

European Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions concerning Custody of Children and on the Restoration of Custody of Children 
(ETS No. 105: 1980/1983)

This convention aims to provide solutions concerning custody when parents live in different European states and to ensure the enforcement of decisions relating to the custody of and access to children. 

The Central Authorities of contracting states (provided for in Article 2) are a key element in the application of this convention.
European Convention on the Adoption of Children
(ETS No. 058: 1967/1968)

A revised version of this convention that will reflect both legal and societal changes is currently being drafted by the Working Party on Adoption (CJ-FA-GT1), a subcommittee of the European Committee on Legal Co-operation.

The working party has proposed  that the following new issues be taken into account in the revised convention:   the elimination of difference in treatment between children born in and out of wedlock; paternal consent; consultation with the adoptive child when possible; minimum age for the adopter; the right of  persons to know their identity or origins; suspension of adoption proceedings where establishment of paternity is pending.

The Working Party on Adoption is finalising a revised adoption convention which will be sent to the Committee of Ministers in 2007.