Bulgaria has been ranked as 32nd in the world on how effectively children can use the courts to defend their rights, according to new research from Child Rights International Network (CRIN).
The new report, “Rights, Remedies and Representation”, takes into account whether children can bring court actions when their rights are violated, the legal resources available to them, the practical considerations for taking legal action and whether international law on children’s rights is applied in national courts.
Bulgaria has ratified UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and it forms part of national law, making it directly enforceable in court. Children older than 14 can file civil court actions to challenge violations of their rights, but only with parental consent. Children younger than 14 can lodge court action only through a parent or legal guardian.
There is a right to legal aid for cases involving rights and interests of the child. Children can also complain to the Ombudsman and the Commission for Protection Against Discrimination, and the European Court on Human Rights.
Achieving access to justice for children is a work in progress and the report represents a snapshot of the ways children’s rights are protected across the world. The report condenses findings from 197 country reports, researched with the support of hundreds of lawyers and NGOs and is intended to help countries improve access to justice for children nationally.
“While the report highlights many examples of systems poorly suited to protecting children’s rights there are also plenty of people using the courts to effectively advance children’s rights,” CRIN director Veronica Yates said..
“Our ranking represents how well states allow children access to justice rather than how well their rights are enshrined. However, it is hard to ignore how many countries with deplorable human rights records are on the lower end of the ranking for children’s access to justice.”
In the foreword of the report, the chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Benyam Dawit Mezmur said: “The committee welcomes this research and already envisages its concrete contribution to its various engagements with state parties.
“Child rights standards in international instruments do not mean much for the lived reality of children if they are not implemented. In particular, if the fundamental rights of children are violated, it is critical that children or those acting on their behalf have the recourse, both in law and in practice, to obtain a remedy to cease, prohibit and/or compensate for the violation.
“I hope this study is only the beginning of a new shift in making access to justice for children a priority that will enable other rights to be fulfilled,” Mezmur said.