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Children’s Rights from an International Comparative Perspective


The 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is an almost universally ratified human rights treaty that attributes human rights and fundamental freedoms to children. The CRC contains both civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights. Children, thus, are regarded as bearers of human rights. At the same time, the CRC recognizes the special status of children as human beings in development, who can exercise their rights in accordance with their age and maturity and who may need special measures of protection. In light of children’s special status, there are four provisions that have been recognized as the general principles of the CRC: art. 2: non-discrimination; art. 3 (1): the best interests of the child; art. 6: right to life and development; art. 12: right to be heard. These general principles have significant implications for the interpretation and implementation of the other provisions of the CRC.
The CRC furthermore explicitly recognizes the position of parents, who have the primary responsibility for the upbringing of their child (art. 18 CRC). In this regard, they have to provide their child with appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise of her or his rights, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child (art. 5 CRC). The State has the responsibility to support the parents in their responsibilities, but it also has the responsibility to protect the child, if the best interests of the child so require. This could e.g. imply that a child has to be placed in a form of alternative care.
In addition, the CRC (and two Optional Protocols) provides special provisions and/or special measures of protection for specific groups of children, including immigrant or refugee children, children in alternative care, children with disabilities, children who have been subject to exploitation or trafficking, children in armed conflict, children deprived of their liberty and children in conflict with the law. A third Optional Protocol provides children with the right to bring individual communications to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva (see also

The following topics will be addressed in this course:

  • Children’s rights as part of international human rights law, including the historical development of children’s rights, the position of the CRC in relation to other UN human rights instruments and the relation between the CRC and regional human rights instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights, the African Charter on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child and the American Convention on Human Rights.

  • Critical reflections on children’s rights, including the foundation of children’s rights, limitations of children’s rights and the issue of universality of international children’s rights.

  • Implications of the CRC framework and implementation of children’s rights at the domestic level (special issues).

  • Monitoring of children’s rights – UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the roles of international organizations (such as UNICEF), regional mechanisms, independent national human rights institutions and non-governmental organisations.

  • Enforcement of children’s rights litigation with a special focus on children’s access to justice and the Optional Protocol to the CRC on a communications procedure.

The above-mentioned topics will be addressed from an international comparative perspective. This means, first of all, that the implications of the international (UN) human rights standards will be addressed in comparison with other international and regional human rights standards. In addition, case studies will be used through which students learn more about differences between countries and/or regions as far as children’s rights implementation and enforcement of children’s rights is concerned. Students are also invited to compare children’s rights realities within the jurisdiction they are most familiar with, with other jurisdictions.

The programme consists of 5 weeks with lectures on different children’s rights issues in which the topics mentioned above will be addressed. As part of the programme students will be invited to work on (one (or more) specific children’s rights assignment(s).


This course aims to provide in depth and comparative knowledge about the international children’s rights framework, its relation to regional human rights systems and its direct and indirect significance for the rights of children at the domestic level. A critical reflection on the potential and limitations of children’s rights will be part of this course.

More specifically:

  • Students can articulate and explain how children’s rights figure as part of international human rights law and how the legal status of children has developed under international law;

  • Students can articulate and explain the meaning of the CRC and Optional Protocols and other international and regional children’s rights instruments;

  • Students can articulate and compare the different legal tools for implementing and monitoring children’s rights at the domestic level;

  • Students can articulate and explain the rights of children in specific areas, such as child protection law and juvenile justice;

  • Students are able to analyse and answer complex legal questions concerning children’s rights using their knowledge of and insight into the different international children’s rights instruments;

  • Students are able to use the different legal tools for implementing and monitoring children’s rights in individual cases, at the domestic level and/or at the international level.

  • Students are able to critically reflect on international children’s rights and have an understanding of relevant ethical issues and dilemmas, challenges and caveats when implementing children’s rights in legal daily practice;

  • Students are able to produce one (or more) high quality written assignment on the theoretical aspects of complex children’s rights issues and engage in meaningful discussions about children’s rights within the group of students, with diverse backgrounds.

Mode of instruction

  • Number of lectures: 10 Lectures/seminars.

  • Names of lecturers: Prof. Dr. T. Liefaard, M. Jeltes LL.M MSc and various (guest) lecturers are envisaged.

  • Required preparation by students: To be announced.

Assessment method

  • Assignment(s) (40%)

  • Written exam (60%)

Reading list
To be announced.


  • Course reader is available to be downloaded from Brightspace.

Contact information

  • Co-ordinator: Chrisje Sandelowsky-Bosman, LL.M.

  • Work address: Kamerlingh Onnes Building, Steenschuur 25, 2311 ES Leiden

  • Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 2727

  • Email:


Institute: Public law
Administration advanced masters: BIO
Mrs. Mahshid Alizadeh (LL.M.):

Disclaimer: This course description has been updated to the best of our knowledge at the current time of publishing. Due to the evolving nature of the Covid 19 pandemic and possible changes in lockdown regulations, however, all information contained within this course description is subject to change up to 1 September 2021. Since it is uncertain how the Covid 19 pandemic will develop after 1 September 2021, further changes to the course description may be unavoidable. However, these can only be made in the event of strict necessity and only in the circumstances where the interests of the students are not impinged. Should there be a need for any change during the duration of the course, this will be notified to all students in a timely manner and will not be to the prejudice of students. Modifications after 1 September 2021 may only be done with the approval of the Faculty Board.