The Third Optional Protocol adds to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has already been ratified by Switzerland, and its first two optional protocols by creating three new control mechanisms. Priority is given to the individual communications procedure, which empowers individuals who have exhausted all available domestic remedies to submit complaints alleging violations of their rights under the Convention to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, an 18-strong body of independent experts from a range of countries. The inter-state communications procedure is designed to enable a state party to the Protocol to draw the Committee’s attention to claims that another state party is not fulfilling its obligations under the Convention or its optional protocols. If reliable information is submitted indicating grave or systematic violations by a state party of rights under the Convention or any of its optional protocols, the Committee may also initiate an inquiry procedure. Previously, the only control instrument available to the Committee was the reporting procedure, through which it considers periodic reports by the states parties on their implementation of the Convention and its optional protocols.
This procedure does not result in the Committee issuing a verdict; instead it transmits its “views”, together with any recommendations, to the state party in question. In contrast to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, the Committee’s views on violations of the Convention and its optional protocols are not legally binding.
Given that effective control instruments are important for actually enforcing human rights, Switzerland has already recognised similar mechanisms under other UN treaties. It is also actively taking part in efforts to strengthen these control mechanisms and to promote their further expansion. Switzerland’s accession to the Third Optional Protocol reinforces the Convention’s practical significance and is in keeping with the country’s long tradition of working to protect and promote human rights at the international level.
The Third Optional Protocol entered into force on 14 April 2014 following its ratification by the required ten countries and it has now been signed by 50 states and ratified by 33.
The Swiss Federal Assembly approved the Third Optional Protocol on 16 December 2016, thereby authorising the Federal Council to declare Switzerland’s accession. Following expiry of the referendum deadline on 7 April, the instrument of accession signed by the President of the Swiss Confederation and the Federal Chancellor was handed over at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 24 April 2017. For Switzerland, the Third Optional Protocol will enter into force three months after the date on which the instrument of accession was deposited, i.e. on 24 July 2017.
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