A compilation of extracts featuring child-rights issues from the reports submitted to the second Universal Periodic Review. There are extracts from the 'National Report', the 'Compilation of UN Information' and the 'Summary of Stakeholder's Information'. Also included is the final report and the list of accepted and rejected recommendations.
Iceland - Twenty Sixth Session - 2016
1 November 2016 - 14:30 - 18:00
II. Human rights protection in Iceland
B.International human rights conventions
8. Iceland has acceded to the following UN human rights conventions: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Iceland has ratified all the optional protocols to these conventions except for the optional protocols to the ICESCR3 ; CAT and the third optional protocol to the CRC. The CRC has been incorporated as a whole into Icelandic law.
13. Iceland is a member of the Council of Europe and has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and most of its protocols. Iceland has also ratified a number of Council of Europe human rights conventions, most recently the Convention on Trafficking in Human Beings and the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (the Lanzarote Convention). By ratifying the ECHR, Iceland has undertaken to comply with the judgments issued by the European Court of Human Rights in cases brought against Iceland. Judgments against Iceland have prompted the payment of compensation to applicants, and in some instances amendments to legislation. The ECHR has been incorporated, as a whole, into Icelandic law. The Icelandic Government intends to ratify the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women (the Istanbul Convention) and the Revised European Social Charter.
III. Human rights implementation in Iceland
B. Equal opportunity and non-discrimination
4. Rights of LGBTI+
38. According to an opinion issued by the Ombudsman for Children in 2015, unnecessary surgical or hormonal treatment on intersex children should not be performed. Whenever possible, intersex children should be allowed to make informed decisions about their treatment when they have developed an awareness of their own gender identity. Under the Icelandic legislation, a person’s right to formally report medical misconduct to the Directorate General of Public Health is subject to a ten-year statute of limitation. It has been pointed out that this can limit legal options for adult intersex people who have been subject to such treatment as children.
C. Immigrants and asylum seekers
1. Immigrants and integration
39. The goal of Icelandic integration policy is to ensure that all residents of the country enjoy equal opportunities and are active participants in all aspects of society. Social services, health care and education are provided on an equal basis to everyone registered in the country.
41. A new Act on Foreigners, adopted in June 2016, addresses the legal protection of foreigners in Iceland. The residency application process was streamlined and various improvements were made regarding the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers, particularly children.
F. Rights of the child
69. Iceland ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention) in 2012. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was incorporated into Icelandic law in 2013, as well A/HRC/WG.6/26/ISL/1 11 as its optional protocols, except for the third protocol on communication procedure. Increased participation of children in all levels of policy making should be encouraged.
70. In 2013 the Children’s Act was amended to place greater emphasis on the child’s perspective in disputes regarding parental responsibility, place of residence and parental access. The district commissioner is now granted access to children’s rights experts in cases regarding children and shall offer mediation services in cases involving custody, domicile, access, per diem fines, or enforcement measures. Children who have attained sufficient maturity shall be given an opportunity to express their views in the course of the mediation process unless this can be seen as having a damaging effect on the child or as being irrelevant to the resolution of the case. The aim of the amendment was to further establish that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration in every decision.
71. Measures have been taken to ensure that children living in unacceptable conditions or who are endangering their health and maturity get necessary and effective health services. Moreover, in 2013 a contract was realized which ensures all children free dental services, in exchange for a low annual consultation fee. The contract comes into force in steps until 2018.
72. As of 2015, all children have access to Multisystem Therapy (MST) which is an intensive family- and community-based treatment program that focuses on addressing serious behavioural problems, including criminal and/or violent behaviour, substance abuse and disciplinary problems in school. MST is directed at the environment of the child in question, i.e. their homes and families, schools and teachers, neighbourhoods and friends. Moreover, Parent Management Training and Aggression Replacement Training are provided to families all over Iceland.
73. In 2015 the Welfare Watch30 published proposals on methods of eradicating poverty.Research results from Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) 2014 show that 7.7% of homes with children in Iceland are rated as materially deprived. The proposals included the payment of non-income-related child benefits, with further child insurance to guarantee that all families with children would receive a prescribed minimum level of support, irrespective of their source of income. Other proposals included changes to the public housing system and the housing benefits being paid to meet the housing costs of low-income families. The new Public Housing Act and Housing Benefit Act, adopted this year, are aimed at increasing such benefits.
74. In June 2016, a resolution on family policy, based on the UNCRC, was submitted to Althingi. The main object of the family policy is to implement the convention in legislation and practice.
75. Efforts to combat violence against children are addressed in chapter III.G.
School culture and bullying
76. Legislative amendments were made in 2011 and 2012 regarding responsibilities and obligations of the school community concerning school morale, culture and the establishment of a framework for processes to prevent physical, mental, and/or social violence, including mobbing in school. Subsequently, regulations on these issues were adopted, according to which a positive school atmosphere should characterize all schoolwork and the schools shall form a comprehensive policy on good school atmosphere, which places children’s interest as the top priority. An advisory body on bullying has for the last four years dealt with various difficult cases of bullying at the Compulsory School Level and a similar body is now being set up for the Upper Secondary School Level based on a new regulation.
G. Efforts to combat violence, in particular domestic violence and sexual abuse
78. In January 2013 the Government established an inter-ministerial committee to coordinate measures in order to combat sexual violence, especially against children, and find ways to strengthen the law enforcement and prosecution procedures in dealing with such cases. The committee´s task was also to make recommendations on how to ensure effective resources for victims of sexual violence. In April 2013, the committee issued a report where 27 suggestions were made to improve the abovementioned measures, 15 of which were considered a high priority. These priority recommendations included measures such as a new facility for the Children’s House and expanding its operations, increasing the cooperation of law enforcements, the prosecution offices and Government Agency for Child Protection nationwide, increasing the number of police officers who investigate sexual offences and increase measures aimed at sexual offenders, such as treatment.
82. Keep the Window Open is a pioneering policing model on dealing with domestic abuse which is currently being introduced in all police district. The model aims at improving procedures in dealing with cases of domestic violence in order to ensure safety in the home, improve services for victims and offer treatment to offenders. It is also intended to improve the position of children in violent households and place a special focus on providing services to immigrant women and victims with disabilities. Consequently, the number of cases in which the offender is removed from the home has risen as well as the number of restraining orders issued. Furthermore, Althingi has adopted an amendment to the Penal Code which explicitly criminalizes domestic violence in compliance with the Istanbul Convention.
Violence against children
86. Following the signing of the Lanzarote Convention necessary changes were made to the General Penal Code. From 2011–2015, three ministries collaborated on a project to raise awareness and build competence with regard to sexual, psychological and physical violence. The main goal of this project was to promote interdisciplinary co-operation on sexual offences against children and to launch a social awakening by disseminating information to children as well as to people who work with children. To this end, a number of educational conferences were held all over the country, two short films were produced, as well as educational videos and an educational puppet show, which all addressed sexual violence against children.
87. Barnahus (The Children’s House) established in 1998, for the co-operation and coordination of entities responsible for the investigation and handling of cases concerning sexual violence against children, has undergone some changes recently. In 2014 it received additional funding for improving its premises and for the hiring of more experts in order to eliminate the waiting list. The services of Barnahus are now also available for children who are victims of serious domestic violence. Interviews of unaccompanied children seeking asylum are now also conducted in Barnahus. In June 2016 additional funding was granted to improve the services for disabled children where there is a suspicion of violence. It has been recommended that the services be expanded, for instance to cover matters of neglected children.
88. Barnahus has inspired the establishment of numerous similar centres in recent years in the other Nordic countries and across Europe. The model is recommended as good practice by the European Union and in many of Council of Europe standards including the guidelines on child-friendly justice and the recommendation on child-friendly social services and has been promoted by the Lanzarote Committee, the monitoring body of the Lanzarote Convention.40 The rights of the Child and the promotion of the Barnahus model are a priority in Iceland’s presidency of the Council of Baltic Sea States, 2015-2016.
89. Moreover, special funding was granted to the Metropolitan Police for the hiring of a police officer working solely on the matters of children and youths who have left their parental homes or places of residential care and are potentially in difficult situations or danger.
90. In order to further strengthen treatment services for youths with substance abuse and/or behavioural problems, a new treatment centre will be established in 2018 which will also be available to young offenders serving custodial sentences. Compensation for victims of violence in children’s institutions
Compensation for victims of violence in children’s institutions
91. A special committee, established in 2007, investigated the conditions in several children’s institutions which operated at different points during the period 1945 to 1994. Reports had surfaced about the conditions for children housed in 11 institutions, many of whom had suffered serious physical, sexual and/or psychological abuse. The committee interviewed the victims and published a report in 2010. Many of the victims have had to deal with serious consequences well into their adult lives of the violence and abuse they suffered. Over a thousand applications for compensation have been submitted so far, and to date the combined compensation has reached 2 billion Krona. The victims have also received further assistance, such as on issues related to accommodation, education and healthcare.
K. Judicial and penal systems
Deprivation of liberty
108. A new prison will open in fall 2016 and replace two prisons in the capital area which no longer meet international requirements, such as the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Both prisons have now been closed. The new prison has the capacity to hold 56 detainees and will be divided between genders. It will also have a specialized facility for pre-trial detainees and for children who are visiting their parents or other family members.
109. The age for criminal liability in Iceland is 15 years. According to recent legislative changes children, i.e. individuals between 15 and 17 years old, serve their sentences in facilities which fall under the auspices of the Government Agency for Child Protection, unless there are particular reasons that they serve in prison. Children would only serve their sentence in prison if experts find it to be in the child’s best interest, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, a child has never served in prison in Iceland according to this provision.
Women in prison
111. The Icelandic legislation and practice concerning women prisoners complies with the Bangkok rules to a large extent, even though they have not been formally implemented in Iceland. As an example, according to the Act on the Execution of Sentences, prisoners shall enjoy health services comparable to those generally available, in addition to the special health services prescribed in legislation and regulations concerning prisoners. This entails that all gender-specific health care which is available in the community is also available to women prisoners. Also, a woman prisoner may be permitted to have her child with her in prison, if she has an infant when she begins serving the sentence or gives birth during the term of imprisonment.
L. Right to health
114. The right to health service is firmly established by law. The objective is to provide everyone equal access to the best available health services, irrespective of financial position. More funding is now provided to the healthcare and social systems, and the A/HRC/WG.6/26/ISL/1 17 construction of a new hospital is a part of the national action plan on improving the healthcare system. A new subsidy system for pharmaceutical products has been in place since 2013. The system builds on payment contribution steps, where the individual pays proportionally less as the costs for pharmaceutical products increase during a 12-month period until a certain maximum amount has been reached. The maximum amount is considerably lower for pensioners, people with disabilities, children and young people under the age of 22. An act on a similar subsidy system to limit annual cost of healthcare services costs was adopted in June 2016 and will enter into force in February 2017.
115. A parliamentary resolution on a policy and action plan on mental health services was passed by Althingi in April 2016. The main aim of the policy is to promote wellbeing and better mental health throughout the country and that those who suffer from mental disorders remain active members of the community. One of the objectives is to make psychological services available in health care centres and important steps have already been taken in that direction. Access to mental health services has been criticized, in particular regarding prisoners, asylum seekers, refugees, children and young people. Iceland considers this issue as an important challenge.
N. Freedom of opinion and expression
O. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
126. The 2013 amendments to the Act on Registered Religious Associations allowed secular life stance organizations to register in the same way as religious associations, provided that certain basic conditions are met. For example, such organizations must be based on a secular ideology, have a lawful purpose and an active operation. The aim was to ensure that both kinds of associations, i.e. religious and secular, enjoy equal rights and obligations in accordance with law, as well as to ensure the rights of parents to decide what association their child shall belong to. Before the amendment, the child was automatically registered in the same religious association as the mother. Now it is only registered in such an association if both parents are registered in it. Moreover, since 2015 blasphemy no longer constitutes a criminal offence in Iceland.
127. According to legislation, schools should provide religious education according to national curriculum guidelines, the religious freedom of students should be respected and schools should not be used for religious practice. However, co-operation between schools and educational institutions and churches is allowed to an extent for educational purposes.
128. The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture working group, established in 2012, proposed guidelines for co-operation between schools and religious organizations, which were subsequently introduced to all schools and stakeholders. The guidelines clarified the different role of schools and religious institutions and emphasized that a quality religious education is important in a multicultural society within the school system. Visits to religious organizations and visits by representatives from religious institutions to schools should be organized within the framework of the National Curriculum for Pre-School, Compulsory Schools and Upper Secondary Schools. It is also recommended that municipalities establish their own guidelines for the co-operation of religious organizations and schools within this framework.
132. A White Paper on Education Reform in Iceland was brought forth in 2014 by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture with the aim of providing students of all ages A/HRC/WG.6/26/ISL/1 20 with an education required for life and work in a modern society. Reading comprehension as well as mathematical and scientific literacy have declined over the past decade and are now below the OECD average. The White Paper identifies areas to be strengthened and strategies likely to provide students with the education mandated by law and the National Curriculum Guides.
133. Iceland has a comprehensive and well-established system of identifying learners’ special educational needs and allocating resources to provide support in pre-school and compulsory education. Inclusive education is the guiding policy of Iceland’s national education system. A 2015 report on inclusive education found that whilst most stakeholders fully support the national policy, there are different interpretations of what that means to different stakeholders.
134. An External Audit of the inclusive education system in Iceland is being conducted in 2016 by the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education working cooperatively with, but independently from, any stakeholders within the Icelandic system. The External Audit will consider structure, process and outcome factors and will lead to information that can be used to plan systematic improvements for the system in Iceland in the long term.
Human rights education
136. According to a 2016 parliamentary resolution, the Minister of the Interior in consultation with the Minister of Education, Science and Culture shall dedicate 20 November each year, the day of the adoption of the CRC, to children’s rights education.
137. The educational policy which appears in the National Curriculum Guide is based on six fundamental pillars: literacy, sustainability, health and welfare, democracy and human rights, equality and creativity. The fundamental pillars are interrelated and interdependent in education and school activities. They are based on the idea that literacy of the diverse symbolism and communication systems of society are prerequisites to active democracy, which can only flourish if every form of equality between individuals and groups in society is supported simultaneously. Human rights can only be ensured by supporting individual health and welfare and by fighting discrimination and every form of violence, including bullying. Education for democracy and human rights is based on critical thinking and reflection on the basic values of society and relies on co-operation with parties inside and outside the school. Thus, active co-operation is expected from the homes of children and youth concerning sports and youth work. Active co-operation with the local community is one of the key factors of sustainability. It is essential for democratic schools to participate in creating a sustainable society of collective responsibility. Teaching materials are prepared and selected in accordance with the fundamental pillars of education. The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture is negotiating with UNICEF Iceland to assist schools to integrate education on the rights of the child (CRC) into their daily work.
138. The main provisions of UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education are considered to be already guaranteed in Icelandic legislation.
IV. Iceland’s international human rights priorities
143. Iceland actively promotes the elimination of all forms of discrimination, including based on sexual orientation and gender identity; the rights of the child, action against trafficking in human beings, the protection of human rights while countering terrorism and violent extremism, as well as the elimination of torture, the death penalty and extrajudicial executions
I. Background and framework
A. Scope of international obligations
1. The Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights reported that Iceland, during its universal periodic review in 2012, had undertaken several commitments, including considering the ratification of OP-ICESCR and OP-CAT. He noted that Iceland had not yet accepted that children and adults might bring complaints under CRC and ICESCR. The Independent Expert reported that the Icelandic response to the banking collapse showed that the Government took its commitments to protect social and economic rights seriously; consequently, it seemed appropriate that Iceland should ensure that its population has access to those international complaints mechanisms.
4. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommended that Iceland ratify the Convention against Discrimination in Education.
C. Institutional and human rights infrastructure and policy measures
11. The Independent Expert on foreign debt noted that, during its previous universal periodic review, Iceland had committed to actively examining the possibility of establishing a national human rights institution compliant with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (the Paris Principles). He reported that in early 2013, the Ministry of the Interior had drafted a national action plan on human rights, which included the establishment of a human rights institution. However, the plan had not yet been submitted to Parliament. The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe had recently highlighted the important role that national human rights institutions and other human rights protection bodies could play in the context of economic crises. Based on their current legal mandates, neither the Althing Ombudsman nor the Ombudsman for Children could fulfil the role of a national human rights institution. While the Icelandic Human Rights Centre carried out many activities similar to those of human rights institutions in other countries, it lacked the required legal status and adequate and stable funding.
13. Concerned that there was a complicated system of complaints mechanisms established under various government agencies, the Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Iceland consider giving the Ombudsman for Children the competence to handle individual complaints and ensure that the mechanism is accessible to all children. The Committee recommended that Iceland establish an effective permanent mechanism for coordinating the implementation of child rights policies by all relevant bodies at all levels. It encouraged Iceland to adopt a new national plan of action on children and adequate follow-up mechanisms for full implementation of the plan and ensure that it is equipped with an evaluation and monitoring mechanism. The Committee recommended that Iceland introduce budget tracking from a child right’s perspective with a view to monitoring and evaluating budget allocations for children.
B. Right to life, liberty and security of person
31. The Committee on the Rights of the Child was concerned that few reports of sexual abuse of children led to prosecution and even fewer to conviction. The Human Rights Committee recommended, inter alia, that Iceland establish Government-coordinated measures aimed at prevention of sexual abuse of children and ensure that education about child sexual abuse and prevention become a formal part of the curriculum in faculties training teachers, other professionals working with children, health professionals, lawyers and police officers.
32. The Committee on the Rights of the Child welcomed amendments to the penal code whereby the use of prostitution, in particular involving children, was criminally punishable. Nevertheless, it reiterated its previous recommendation that Iceland amend its legislation in order to abolish the requirement of double criminality for prosecution in Iceland of offences committed abroad
C. Administration of justice, including impunity, and the rule of law
37. The Committee on the Rights of the Child reiterated the recommendation that Iceland guarantee by law the separation of detained children and adults, and urged Iceland to find a practical and reasonable solution to detain children and adults separately.
38. The same Committee recommended that Iceland ensure that all children victims and/or witnesses of crimes are provided with the protection required by CRC, and encouraged courts to make use of the Children’s House for obtaining testimonies from children.
D. Right to family life
41. The Committee on the Rights of the Child was concerned that the best interests principle might not be fully taken into account, especially in ensuring parents’ access to the child, and recommended that Iceland ensure that in such cases the principle always be given priority.97 Regarding family disputes, it recommended that Iceland revise its social benefits programmes for assisting vulnerable families and increase its funding to mediation services for parents.
G. Right to social security and to an adequate standard of living
53. The Independent Expert recommended that Iceland: provide further targeted debt relief for poor and highly indebted households; ensure that everyone has access, on an equal and fair footing, to social security benefits of last resort that provide a minimum essential level of benefits that are monitored and adjusted regularly according to the cost of living; continue its efforts to combat poverty and social exclusion, in particular of young families with children, single-parent families, persons with disabilities, immigrants and individuals who are dependent on the rental market; improve access to affordable housing for people who are dependent on the rental market; improve rental market regulations; and strengthen the legal protection of tenants. Three treaty bodies made related comments and recommendations.
H. Right to health
55. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was concerned that the extensive cuts to the health sector budget since 2008 had reduced the quality and availability of public health-care services. It also expressed concern about the financial constraints for families with children with disabilities in accessing required health-care services. The Committee recommended that Iceland increase its public health-care budget. The Independent Expert on foreign debt reported that most of the cuts in the health sector had focused on decreasing hospital costs, postponing investments in hospital infrastructure and the acquisition of new equipment and reducing pharmaceutical costs.
56. The Committee on the Rights of the Child made several recommendations in relation to the right to health, including that Iceland: integrate children of immigrants into its health system; continue to educate the public about healthy nutrition; raise awareness among adolescents about reproductive health and negative impacts of early pregnancies and abortions; and provide access to contraceptives and counselling services on reproductive health, including psychological counselling.
57. The same Committee was concerned that the waiting lists for mental health diagnosis and treatment were long.
58. The Committee recommended that Iceland continue to take all appropriate measures, in particular life-skills education, to protect children from illicit use of narcotic drugs and alcohol, and provide recovery programmes designed for child victims of drug and substance abuse.
I. Right to education
59. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was concerned that the extensive budget cuts to the educational sector since 2008 had led to a reduction in staffing, merging of class groups and cancellation of courses. The Independent Expert on foreign debt reported that in the education field, primary schools were hardest hit by cuts, while pre-primary and tertiary education institutions suffered less. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recommended that Iceland increase the budget for the public education system and continue to improve school facilities for children with special needs, particularly at the upper secondary level.
60. The Independent Expert on foreign debt noted that Iceland had one of the highest rates of early school leaving in Europe, with boys and immigrant children being at particular risk of dropping out of upper secondary school before attaining the minimum qualifications. The Government had identified tackling secondary school dropout as one of its priorities. The Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Iceland monitor the situation and detect children working at too early an age and motivate them to A/HRC/WG.6/26/ISL/2 13 finish secondary education. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommended that Iceland take measures to support migrant girls’ integration into the school system, including by providing language classes, if needed.
61. The Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Iceland enhance measures to combat all forms of bullying and harassment by improving school regulations on misbehaving and improving the capacity of teachers, all those working at schools and students to accept diversity and improve their conflict resolution skills.
J. Cultural rights
63. The Committee recommended that Iceland make sports education more attractive and culturally appropriate for girls and promote women’s and girls’ participation in sports clubs.
K. Persons with disabilities
64. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recommended that Iceland combat and prevent discrimination, especially against persons with disabilities, particularly with respect to the rights to education, housing and social assistance. It recommended that Iceland take steps to ensure access to cultural events for persons with disabilities through sufficient and timely availability of their transport facilities. The Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that data collected on persons with disabilities be disaggregated also by the nature of the disability, age and gender.
M. Right to development, and environmental issues
70. Welcoming the strong efforts by Iceland to contribute to international cooperation, the Committee on the Rights of the Child encouraged the State to meet its target of reaching 0.7 per cent of gross national product by 2015.
A.Background and framework
3. Institutional and human rights infrastructure and policy measures
9. CoE-Commissioner, during his June 2016 visit to Iceland, referred to the institutional framework for the protection of human rights currently ensured through the work of several structures, including the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Office of the A/HRC/WG.6/26/ISL/3 3 Ombudsman for Children, the Centre for Gender Equality and the Data Protection Authority. Iceland did not have an institution that had accreditation as a national human rights institution under the Paris Principles. Establishing such an institution with a broad mandate to promote human rights, including through carrying out research and awareness-raising, would enhance the country’s system for human rights protection. The Commissioner welcomed that a draft law on establishing a national human rights institution had been prepared by the Ministry of the Interior. He encouraged the authorities, in cooperation with civil society organisations, to set as a short-term priority the establishment of an internationally accredited national human rights institution as a focal point for promoting human rights in the country.
C. Implementation of international human rights obligations, taking into account applicable international humanitarian law
1. Equality and non-discrimination
25. JS2 reported that in May 2015, the ombudsperson for children issued a statement condemning non-medically necessary interventions on a child's sex characteristics without informed consent.
2. Right to life, liberty and security of the person
32. Icelandic National Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF-Iceland) noted that its 2011 Status of Children report identified the biggest threats to children in Iceland as different forms of violence (sexual violence, domestic violence, neglect and bullying). UNICEF Iceland indicated that a recent follow-up report included both evidence-based recommendations and new data on violence against children in Iceland. Recommendations included: more support for relatives, the strengthening of the Children’s House and increased prevention through the educational system. UNICEF-Iceland also noted that a 2013 Prime Minister’s Task Force on combating the sexual abuse of children had called for a centralized body to oversee prevention against all forms of violence against children.
33. JS1/ICEHR expressed concern that not enough resources had been allotted to child welfare and protection services. Caseloads were too large and the new approach to cases of domestic violence had brought the situation of child victims of domestic violence into focus.48 JS1/ICEHR recommended the restart of the 2012-2014 project so as to continue the training of professionals working with children on dealing with children in crisis.
3. Administration of justice, including impunity, and the rule of law
37. JS1/ICEHR expressed concern at the high number of dismissals of charges of rape and sexual violence by the State Prosecutor and the low number of convictions. JS1/ICEHR referred to 2013 and 2014 reports released by EDDA-Centre for Excellence and the Ministry of Interior: on mapping out how rape cases reported to the police in 2008-2009 fared in the judicial system; and on the views of professionals working on rape cases within the criminal justice system and suggestions for improvement. Following the issuance of the latter report, the Minister of Interior appointed a committee with representatives of the Judicial Council, the Metropolitan Police, State and District Prosecutors, the Rape Crisis Centre and the Icelandic Bar Association to look into its findings and to come up with an action plan to improve the legal process in rape cases and the legal process of cases of sexual offences against children. The committee was expected to deliver its report in June 2016. Throskahjalp-National called for urgent action to protect persons with disability from violence and ensure their effective access to justice.
4. Right to family life
39. EPA-Foreldrajafnrétti reported on the difficulties visiting parents faced in having their rights respected. It referred to estimates that about 41,8% of all children in Iceland had parents living in two separated homes. When this was the case, one parent was recognized as having the legal residence of the child and the other had visitation rights. According to government statistics, about 90% of those children had their legal residence at their mother’s home, and only about 10% have their legal residence at their father’s home. Since January 2013 with the amendment of the Children’s Act, joint custody of the mother and father of a child was a basic principle under Icelandic law. However, according to EPAForeldrajafnrétti, the resident parent could move the legal residence of the child without consulting the other parent regardless of shared custody or not. Only the resident parent had the authority to take solitarily all decisions regarding health care, medicine, education and leisure for the child regardless of shared custody or not. EPA-Foreldrajafnrétti believed that the shared custody system was not in accordance with provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.57 EPA-Foreldrajafnrétti called for greater transparency including through the publication of statistics on visitation rulings and for an appeal system independent of the Ministry of Interior on rulings on visitation rights.
40. JS1/ICEHR encouraged the Government to ensure the implementation of the Act in Respect of Children and that children were listened to and participated in decisions regarding their well-being for example in custody cases.
7. Right to social security and to an adequate standard of living
46. UNICEF-Iceland reported on its assessment of the situation of Icelandic children affected by seven dimensions of material deprivation relating to: nutrition, clothing, education, information, housing, leisure and social life.65 UNICEF-Iceland reported that from 2009 to 2014 the proportion of children experiencing material deprivation had more than doubled to 9.1%. During the same period severe material deprivation had more than tripled to 2.4%.66 UNICEF-Iceland reported that children in Iceland were most likely to be deprived in housing and least likely to be deprived in information. 67 Children in a single parent family were more likely than others to be deprived in clothing, housing and leisure. 68 Children with a foreign background were more likely to be deprived in the dimension of education and housing.
8. Right to health
49. According to Association on Women, Alcohol and Addiction (ThRoot), Iceland was in breach of its human rights obligations as regards children and women´s health care and services in relation to addiction and mental health problems. The Root expressed particular concern that women (and children) with such problems, were often victims of violence and exploitation, and when subjected to detox/treatment alongside with men were in danger of being re-victimized. The Root stated that the Government needed to make strategic plans for treatment of addiction and related problems, with the emphasis on women, girls and children. Strategic plans should be in harmony with gender-responsive and gender-mainstreaming principles. Best practice guidelines for treatment for women had to be issued. Treatment for addiction had to be more diversified and based on scientific evidence.
9. Right to education
50. Regarding immigrant children, JS1/ICEHR reported that the Acts on Compulsory School and Secondary Upper School stipulated that every school had to prepare a plan to receive children with different native tongue than Icelandic. In spite of those stipulations, provisions and services for immigrant students and their parents varied considerably from one school to another. However, the high percentage of immigrant children dropping-out of school after finishing compulsory education had diminished. Those results were due to various efforts such as the new national curriculum, recent reforms in teacher education, primary and secondary education, and other resources, such as grants to individual schools for actions to counteract dropout and to receive students with immigrant background. JS1/ICEHR encouraged the Government to keep supporting actions for diminishing dropout rates for immigrant and other students after finishing compulsory education.
The following recommendations enjoy the support of Iceland:
115.43 Advance its activities aimed at ensuring full realization of the rights of women, children, elderly people and persons with disabilities (Mongolia);
115.44 Enact legislation that includes protection from discrimination on the basis of intersex status (Australia);
115.45 Enact legislation that prohibits age-based discrimination (Australia);
115.65 Intensify the efforts to raise awareness among women and girls about their rights under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and on the individual communication procedures contemplated in its Optional Protocol (Panama);
115.83 Pay special attention to combating domestic and sexual violence by implementing a new national action plan and ensure that it reinforces the provision of services to women and girl victims of sexual violence (France);
115.90 Support comprehensively increased efficiency in fighting violence against children (Tajikistan);
115.91 Establish government-coordinated measures aimed at prevention of sexual abuse of children (Islamic Republic of Iran);
115.92 Adopt a new national plan of action on children with adequate follow-up mechanisms for full implementation (Islamic Republic of Iran);
115.94 Take further steps to protect the rights of the child, prevent child abuse, exploitation and violence (Ukraine);
115.95 Increase professional and effective working procedures in addressing child sexual abuse cases (Maldives);
115.98 Improve the integration of children of migrants into the national health system (Brazil);
117.10 Ratify the Convention against Discrimination in Education (Iraq);
117.31 Take further steps to increase the budget for public education and continue to improve school facilities for children (State of Palestine);
117.37 Eradicate the crimes of sexual abuse and trafficking in children (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela).
The recommendations below have been noted by the State party. However, the Icelandic authorities will examine whether to ratify these optional protocols:
117.2 Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure (Montenegro); Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure (Portugal);
117.3 Widen the scope of international obligations through ratification of international treaties such as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure (Albania);
117.4 Ratify as soon as possible the third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Germany);
117.5 Ratify and effectively implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure (Czechia).