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Samoa[1] [print]

Last edited: December 2005

Summary and Analysis

When Samoa ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC] in November of 1994, it did so with a reservation to Article 28(1)(a), reserving a right to not provide free primary education.  It is unclear what legal authority, if any, the Convention or any international agreement has in Samoa.  Since Samoa's ratification of the CRC, it has not submitted any reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child and has not passed any laws incorporating the Convention in domestic legislation. 

The Infant's Ordinance of 1961 is the only law governing child protection in Samoa, and it leaves procedural practice largely up to the discretion of the district courts, in which protection proceedings take place.  Samoa's Ministry of Police and Prisons appoints Child Welfare Officers who can be ordered by the court to take care of children who have been removed from their parents. There is currently no provision in legislation requiring Magistrates to consult the child in child protection proceedings, although the consent of children over 12 is required in adoption cases.  In making decisions, the Magistrate is instructed to “regard the welfare of the child as the first and paramount importance.”[2]

According to the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Samoa is dedicated to children's welfare and has recently implemented several youth programs through the Ministries of Education and Health.  Although corporal punishment is accepted, the Bureau reports that the number of child abuse reports have increased, which is “attributed to citizens becoming more aware of the need to report the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of children,” and that those cases have been prosecuted and dealt with aggressively by authorities.[3]  It is unclear why Samoa has not appeared before the Committee on the Rights of the Child to date.  It should be noted that we were unable to contact anyone in Samoa to confirm this information.

Sources of Law (In Order of Authority)

Statutes

Infants Ordinance[4]

3. Principle on which questions relating to custody, etc., of infant to be decided - Where in any proceeding in any Court the custody or upbringing of a child is in question the Court in deciding that question shall regard the welfare of the child as the first and paramount importance.

16. Power of Court and appeal - (1) If it appears to a Court on its own motion in the course of any proceedings for an offence, or at any time on the application of a constable, that any child is living in a place of ill repute or is a neglected, indigent or delinquent child or is not under proper control, or is living in an environment detrimental to its physical or moral well-being, the Court may make an order for the committal of that child to the care of a Child Welfare Officer.

(2) Where the Magistrate's Court makes or refuses to make an order under this section, an appeal shall lie to the Supreme Court.

International Law

Convention on the Rights of the Child, [5] ratified Nov. 29, 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] Infants Ordinance 1961, 7/1961, art. 3 (1996) available at http://www.paclii.org/ws/legis/consol_act/io1961150/ and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[3] Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Human Rights Report: Samoa, U.S. State Department, §5 (2005) available at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41658.htm.

[4] Id., art. 3, 16.

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

 

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