Rules of Procedure under CRC OP3 revised after the climate change case
After the recent climate change case at its eighty-eighth session (6 to 24 September 2021), the Committee on the Rights of the Child has revised the Rules of Procedure under the Optional Protocol to the CRC on a communications procedure (CRC OP3), more specifically: rule 19 concerning the oral hearing.
The climate change case, Sacchi et al. v Argentina et al., was the first case in which the CRC Committee held direct oral hearings with the children. The Committee had a separate online hearing with the children, who discussed the impact of climate change and explained their reasons for bringing the case to the Committee. The Committee also held five oral hearings with the children’s legal representatives, the States’ representatives and third party intervenors (current and former UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights and the environment). During the oral hearings, States were specifically asked various questions concerning the admissibility of the case; whether children can bring cases to their national courts, whether domestic remedies included children who live outside the State, and whether there are special provisions for children who cannot afford to have lawyers.
After this case and based on the lessons learned, Rule 19 of the Committee’s Rules of Procedures, about oral hearings, was revised as follows (emphasis added):
1. The Committee may decide to invite the author(s) and/or alleged victim(s) as well as representatives of the State party concerned in order to provide, in person or by way of video or teleconference, further clarifications or to answer questions on the admissibility and/or merits of the communication, provided that the Committee deems it to be in the best interests of the child(ren). The Committee may also decide to invite a third party intervener, after consultation with the parties. Any hearing shall be conducted in a closed meeting, unless both parties agree to a public meeting and the Committee deems it to be in the best interests of the child(ren). The hearings of alleged victims(s) will not be conducted in the presence of State representatives, unless the alleged victim(s) so request and the Committee deems it in the best interests of the child(ren). The Committee shall guarantee child sensitive procedures at hearings of the alleged victim(s) and it shall ensure that the views of the alleged victim(s) are given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity. The non-appearance of a party will not prejudice the consideration of the case.
2. Information that a hearing will take or has taken place and the contents thereof will be transmitted to the other party, who will be allowed to make appropriate submissions.
New is the addition that further clarification or questions can be asked during the admissibility stage of the case. Also new is the addition that “[t]he Committee may decide to invite a third party intervener, after consultation with the parties”. Moreover, the Committee has decided to allow for exceptions to the rule that hearings are conducted behind closed doors if “both parties agree to a public meeting and the Committee deems it to be in the best interests of the child(ren)”. This indicates that there may be cases in the future with open hearings.