‘I’m very glad to be able to continue with the work we have started’

Posted on December 15, 2020

International child law expert Prof Ann Skelton has been re-elected to the OHCHR Committee on the Rights of the Child.

UP is proud to announce that Prof Ann Skelton of the Faculty of Law (UP Law) has been re-elected to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner’s (OHCHR) Committee on the Rights of the Child for a second term, 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). It oversees the implementation of the CR, and its members review the progress of the ratifying 196 states and issue recommendations to states. They also draft authoritative statements on children's rights known as “General Comments”, and hold discussions with stakeholders and children. Since 2014, the committee has also been receiving individual complaints and requests for enquiries under its communications procedure.

Prof Elsabe Schoeman, Dean of UP Law, extended her congratulations to the professor. “Prof 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, Minister Naledi Pandor congratulated Prof Skelton on her re-election.

Prof Skelton racked up several notable achievements during her first four-year term of office. She led the drafting of General Comment 24 on the rights of children in the child justice system, and is currently chairperson of the working group on communications. Prof Skelton is also the first holder of the Rotating Honorary Chair on the Enforcement of Children's Rights by Leiden University in the Netherlands. 

Commenting on her re-election, Prof Skelton said, “I acknowledge the support of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, and 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.”

With her background in strategic litigation, Prof Skelton is particularly interested in the communications procedure. She enjoys the challenge of dealing with complex legal issues such as extra-territorial jurisdiction, which the committee recently grappled with during 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.

The committee usually meets thrice a year for a month each time in Geneva, Switzerland. However, in March this year, it held a unique session in the Pacific Island of Samoa. Fortunately, 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); the same will occur for the January 2021 session.

“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,” says Prof Skelton.

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