The Council of Europe has an exceptionally broad base of standard-setting texts whose purpose is to promote and protect children’s rights, including protection from all forms of violence. The most important of these are conventions, which have a legally binding effect and are therefore referred to as legal standards.
The European Convention on Human Rights
The European Convention on Human Rights established the European Court of Human Rights and allows victims of human rights violations to lodge applications with the Court against the 47 states bound by the Convention. The Convention applies equally to all individuals, children included. Article 8 of the Convention, which guarantees the right to respect for private and family life, is a particularly important article for the protection of children’s rights and is often applied in cases where children are concerned.
The European Social Charter
The European Social Charter guarantees social and economic human rights and allows certain organisations to lodge collective complaints of violations of the Charter with the European Committee of Social Rights. The Charter guarantees the rights of children in many circumstances. Children’s rights are specifically addressed in several articles of the Social Charter, in particular: 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).
The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention)
The Lanzarote Convention requires criminalisation of all kinds of sexual offences against children. It sets out that states in Europe and beyond shall adopt specific legislation and take measures to prevent sexual violence, protect child victims and prosecute perpetrators.
European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
This convention provides non-judicial preventive mechanisms to protect detainees from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 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) which frequently visits establishments where young persons are detained.
Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention)
The Istanbul Convention requires states parties to prevent violence against women and children, protect victims and prosecute the perpetrators. The convention introduces a number of criminal offences for physical, sexual and psychological violence for which harsher sentences are required when the offence is committed against or in the presence of a child.
Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings
The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings aims to prevent trafficking in human beings, protect victims of trafficking, prosecute traffickers and promote co-ordination of national actions and international co-operation. The convention provides for special measures and procedures for children in the context of victim identification and requires that assistance provided to child victims be adapted to their special needs.
Convention on Cybercrime (Budapest Convention)
The Cybercrime Convention (Budapest Convention) establishes a common approach to the criminalisation of offences related to computer systems and aims to make criminal investigations concerning such offences more effective. According to this convention, all conduct relating to child pornography must be established as a criminal offence in the state parties.
Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data
The Data Protection Convention ensures respect for fundamental human rights with regard to processing of personal data. Children are holders of data protection rights under this convention and special attention must be paid to empowering children to exercise these rights.
Other legal standards:
- First fact-finding visit under the Council of Europe Project to End Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse@Europe
- Screening of persons working with refugee children insufficient to protect them from sexual abuse
- Hungarian authorities have not done enough to protect migrant children from sexual abuse along Serbian-Hungarian border
- Stakeholders and experts exploring ways to strengthen the coordination and implementation mechanisms of the Lanzarote Convention in the Republic of Moldova