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Nauru[1] [print]

Last modified: December 2005

Summary and Analysis

Though Nauru acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC] in July of 1994, the country has not submitted any reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.  The Constitution of Nauru does not mention international agreements, so it is unclear how much legal authority the CRC has, if any, in Nauru.  Nauru's Guardianship of Children Act of 1975 governs child protection proceedings, which may take place in either the Family Court or the Supreme Court.  Both the Family Court Act and the Guardianship of Infants Act refer to welfare officers, who are responsible for investigating maltreatment and neglect.

Though the child protection legislation was enacted in 1975 and has not been amended to date, the Guardianship of Children's Act contains the provisions of Article 12 of the CRC, which provides children with the right to express their opinions in matters affecting them, almost word-for-word.  The statute mandates that the Court ascertain the child's wishes and weigh them in accordance with her age and maturity.  The Supreme Court also has the discretion to appoint a guardian ad litem for the child and either the Supreme Court or the Family Court may appoint a lawyer to represent the child, paid for by the state or by the other party to the proceedings.  The law does not specify that either representative must convey the wishes of the child, but even if either advocates the child's best interests instead of the child's views, the Court would be required to consult the child directly.

Several factors may impede Nauru's full implementation of the CRC.  Nauru is a tiny (21 square-kilometers) isolated island in the South Pacific with a population of approximately 13,000.  After a prosperous period in which Nauru thrived on its phosphate mining, the supply is largely depleted and 80% of the land has been rendered uninhabitable.[2]  Nauru struggles with the extremely high unemployment rate of 90% and extensive alcohol abuse.[3]  According to the U.S. State Department, the government lacks the resources to perform some basic functions and largely relies on aid from Australia to operate.[4]  The government compiles no child abuse statistics, but the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor reported, “The Government devoted adequate resources for education and health care for children . . . alcohol abuse sometimes led to child neglect or abuse.”[5]

 

Sources of Law (In Order of Authority)

Statutes

Guardianship of Children Act[6]

Court-Appointed Guardians

9. (1)  Subject to the provisions of this section, the Supreme Court or the Family Court may at any time, on application made for the purpose or on the making of an order under section 11 of this Act, appoint a guardian of a child either as sole guardian or in addition to any other guardian, and either generally or for any particular purpose, and either until the child attains the age of eighteen or sooner marries or for any shorter period.

(2)  Subject to any power invested in any higher Court, the Supreme Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction to appoint and remove a guardian ad litem in respect of any proceedings before it or any higher Court, and may appoint or remove a guardian ad litem in respect of any proceedings before any other Court.

Welfare of Child Paramount

25. (2)  In any such proceedings as are referred to in the preceding subsection the Court shall ascertain the wishes of the child, if the child is able to express them, and shall, subject to subsection (8) of section 20 of this Act, take account of them to such extent as the Court thinks fit, having regard to the age and maturity of the child.

Barrister and Solicitor or Pleader may be Appointed

31.  The Court may appoint a barrister and solicitor or pleader to assist it or to represent any child who is the subject of, or who is otherwise a party to, proceedings under this Part of this Act and, where any barrister and solicitor or pleader is so appointed, his fees and expenses shall be paid by such other party or parties to those proceedings as the Court shall order or, if the Court so decides, shall be a charge upon the Treasury Fund.

International Law

Convention on the Rights of the Child,[7] to which Nauru acceded Jul. 27, 1994.

Article 12

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

 



Endnotes

[1] This page is also available as a .pdf Document, and Word Document.

[2] Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Background Notes: Nauru, U.S. State Department, ¶5 at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/16447.htm (Sept. 2005).

[3] See id. ¶1, 6.

[4] See id. ¶10.

[5] Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Human Rights Report: Nauru, U.S. State Department, §5 (2005) available http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41653.htm.

[6] Guardianship of Children Act, 6/1975, §9, 25(2), 31, available as .pdf Document.

[7] G.A. Res. 44/125, U.N. GAOR, 44th Session, Supp. No. 49, U.N. Doc. A/44/736 (1989).

 

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