The Faculty of Law (UP Law) at the University of Pretoria (UP) is proud to announce that Professor Ann Skelton was re-elected to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner’s (OHCHR) Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) for a second term of office, from March 2021 to February 2025. The Committee consists of 18 independent experts, who are nominated by their countries, and are voted in by a majority of the 196 states that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
The Committee oversees the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Its members review the progress of the 196 states that have ratified the CRC and issue recommendations to states, drafts authoritative statements on children's rights known as “General Comments”, and hold discussion days with stakeholders and children. Since 2014 the Committee has also been receiving individual complaints and requests for inquiries under its communications procedure.
Prof Skelton has racked up several notable achievements during her first four-year term of office. She led the drafting of General Comment no 24 on the rights of children in the child justice system, and she is currently the chairperson of the working group on communications. Inter alia Prof Skelton is also the first holder of the Rotating Honorary Chair on the Enforcement of Children's Rights by Leiden University, The Netherlands.
Prof Skelton said that she was “relieved and happy to be re-elected. I acknowledge the support of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, and at the missions in Geneva and New York, as a key factor in my successful re-election, as the process is very political.”
She said that continuity for Treaty Body Committees is important. “When I was elected the first time, I felt I was joining a movie that was halfway through. It is a highly complex system, and there is so much to learn. Four years sounds like a long time but, actually, it flashes by, and at four years in, you feel like you are on top of it and really able to make a contribution. So I am very glad to be able to continue with the work that we have already started.”
Of particular interest to Prof Skelton, with her background in strategic litigation, is the work under the communications procedure. She enjoys the challenge of dealing with complex legal issues such as extra-territorial jurisdiction – which the Committee recently grappled with in a case regarding a complaint against France for refusing to repatriate the children of foreign fighters in camps in Northern Syria.
The court declared the case to be admissible, and Prof Skelton is glad that she will still be on the Committee when the merits of the case are dealt with. Another interesting case on the Committee's agenda is Sacchi and others v Argentina and others, a case about the impact of climate change, brought by 16 children against several states.
The Committee usually meets thrice annually for a month each time in Geneva, Switzerland. However, 2020 was completely different, as the Committee held a unique session in the Pacific Island of Samoa in March this year. Fortunately, the members managed to return home just before the world went into lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 virus. As a result, the May 2020 session was postponed, and the September 2020 session was held online (but did not include state party reviews), and the same will occur for the January 2021 session. Prof Skelton observes that “The work must continue and the treaty bodies are doing what they can, but for an 18-member committee with members spread across the world (reviewing states from around the globe), it is important to get back to in-person sessions as soon as we can.”
In reaction to Prof Skelton’s reappointment, UP Law Dean Professor Elsabe Schoeman congratulated Prof Skelton and conveyed her appreciation of her, saying that ‘Professor Skelton’s re-election comes as no surprise. She has been doing sterling work as a member of the CRC, and her dedication to children’s rights across the globe speaks volumes. She is a universal expert in this field, and the obvious choice to represent South Africa internationally.”
In a media statement on 26 November 2020, Minister Naledi Pandor congratulates Professor Ann Skelton on her re-election to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.