Table 1: Children’s Health and the Right to Life, Survival and Development

Examples of Human Rights Violations

  • High rates of maternal, neonatal and under-five mortality rates.
  • Ill-treatment, abandonment or even infanticide of children motivated by traditional beliefs.
  • High rates of child and adolescent suicide and self-harm.
  • Allowing the death penalty to be imposed for crimes committed by individuals under the age of 18.
  • Failing to protect children from violence (e.g. Mapiripán Massacre).
Human Rights Standard Treaty Body Interpretation
CRC 6(1): States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life. (2) States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.

CRC 24(2): States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures: (a) To diminish infant and child mortality.

CRC, General Comment 5(12): The Committee expects States to interpret “development” in its broadest sense as a holistic concept, embracing the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral, psychological and social development. Implementation measures should be aimed at achieving the optimal development for all children. CRC/GC/2003/5 (Nov. 27, 2003).

CRC, General Comment 9(31): The inherent right to life, survival and development is a right that warrants particular attention where children with disabilities are concerned. In many countries of the world children with disabilities are subject to a variety of practices that completely or partially compromise this right . . . States parties are urged to undertake all the necessary measures required to put an end to these practices, including raising public awareness, setting up appropriate legislation and enforcing laws that ensure appropriate punishment to all those who directly or indirectly violate the right to life, survival and development of children with disabilities. CRC/C/GC/9 (Feb. 27, 2007).

CRC Committee: Expressing concern of high rates of infant mortality in Djibouti CRC/C/DJI/CO/2 (CRC, 2008), para. 29; neonatal deaths and premature births in Georgia CRC/C/GEO/CO/3 (CRC, 2008) para. 44; and maternal, neonatal and under-five mortality rates in Algeria CRC/C/DZA/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), para. 57; Madagascar CRC/C/MDG/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012) para. 49; Burkina Faso CRC/C/BFA/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2010) para. 54; and Argentina CRC/C/ARG/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2010) para. 57.

CRC Committee: Recommending that Madagascar take all necessary measures to stop the ill-treatment, rejection and abandonment of twins, including through legislation and increased awareness-raising in the society at large, which should involve traditional leaders. CRC/C/MDG/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), para. 28.

CRC Committee: Expressing serious concern and recommending immediate action to avoid any future massacres of albino children in Burundi, including to investigate, prosecute and condemn the perpetrators of such crimes. CRC/C/BDI/CO/2 (CRC, 2010), para. 34.

CRC Committee: Urging research on suicide risk factors among children, both in the families of children affected and the education system in Korea. CRC/C/KOR/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), para. 30.

CRC Committee: Recommending Argentina to take effective measures to prevent child suicides and self-inflicted injuries in detention. CRC/C/ARG/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2010), para. 37.

Human Rights Standard Treaty Body Interpretation
ICESCR 12(1): The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.(2) The steps to be taken by the States Parties . . . to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for: (a) The provision for the reduction of the stillbirth-rate and of infant mortality and for the healthy development of the child. CESCR, General Comment 14(14): “The provision for the reduction of the stillbirth rate and of infant mortality and for the healthy development of the child” (Art. 12.2 (a)) may be understood as requiring measures to improve child and maternal health, sexual and reproductive health services, including access to family planning, pre- and post-natal care, emergency obstetric services and access to information, as well as to resources necessary to act on that information. E/C.12/2000/4 (August 11, 2000).

CESCR, General Comment 14(52): Violations of the obligation to fulfill occur through the failure of States parties to take all necessary steps to ensure the realization of the right to health. Examples include the failure . . . to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates. E/C.12/2000/4 (August 11, 2000).

CESCR: Expressing concern over high maternal, infant and under-five mortality rates in Angola E/C.12/AGO/CO/3 (CESCR, 2009), para. 36; Democratic Republic of Congo E/C.12/COD/CO/4 (CESCR, 2009) para. 34; Kenya E/C.12/KEN/CO/1 (CESCR, 2008) para. 32; and Morocco E/C.12/1/ADD.55 (CESCR, 2000), para. 29.

CESCR: Recommending that Benin “step up its efforts to prevent and halt killings of so-called “witch children” by including provisions in criminal law to suppress this practice and organizing campaigns to heighten awareness of its criminal nature among local authorities, doctors, midwives and the population at large.” E/C.12/BEN/CO/2 (CESCR, 2008), para. 40.

ICCPR 6(1): Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. HRC: Noting the very high maternal and infant mortality rates in Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali and calling for efforts to increase access to health services. CCPR/C/COD/CO/3 (HRC, 2006), para. 14, CCPR/CO/77/MLI (HRC, 2003), para. 14.
ICCPR 6(5): Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age. HRC: Repeating to Sudan that the Covenant does not allow the death penalty to be imposed for crimes committed by individuals under the age of 18, and permits no derogation from that article. CCPR/C/SDN/CO/3 (HRC, 2007), para. 20.
CEDAW 12(2): States Parties shall ensure to women appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period, granting free services where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation. CEDAW Committee: Calling on the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to prioritize reducing maternal and infant mortality rates by developing the midwifery workforce and making the services of skilled birth attendants available and accessible, including emergency obstetric delivery services, and by granting free services where necessary. CEDAW/C/LAO/CO/7 (CEDAW, 2009).

CEDAW Committee: Noting with concern that the maternal and infant mortality rates in Timor-Leste are extremely high. CEDAW/C/TLS/CO/1 (CEDAW, 2009).

Human Rights Standards Case Law
ACHR 4(1): Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.ACHR 19: Every minor child has the right to the measures of protection required by his condition as a minor on the part of his family, society, and the state. IACHR: Finding that Colombia violated the right of children under Article 19 of the American Convention, in combination with the rights to life, humane treatment and freedom of movement and residence under Articles 4(1), 5(1) and 22(1), by failing to protect the children of Mapiripán before, during and after the massacre and in connection with the displacement of many such children. Mapiripán Massacre v. Colombia, Series C No. 134 (September 15, 2005).