Ireland, Slovenia, Belgium and the Czech Republic must prohibit all corporal punishment of children to comply with human rights rulings

The European Committee of Social Rights has ruled that Ireland, Slovenia, Belgium and the Czech Republic are in violation of the European Social Charter due to a lack of prohibition of all corporal punishment of children. Corporal punishment of children is lawful in the family home in all four states. In Ireland, it is also lawful in foster care, residential care settings and some childminding services. In Slovenia, Belgium and the Czech Republic it is lawful in some or all alternative care settings and day care settings. In the Czech Republic, there is also no explicit prohibition in institutions for children in conflict with the law.

In the decisions released on Wednesday 27 May 2015 (Ireland and Slovenia) and Friday 29 May 2015 (Belgium and the Czech Republic), the Committee recalls its consistent interpretation of the Charter as regards corporal punishment of children, most recently laid down in its 2006 decision on a complaint against Portugal, that to comply with Article 17, states’ domestic law must prohibit and penalise all forms of violence against children and that the relevant provisions must be sufficiently clear, binding and precise to preclude the courts from refusing to apply them to violence against children. It also notes that, when examining states’ implementation of the Charter, it has repeatedly found that all four states are in violation of article 17 of the Charter because they have not prohibited corporal punishment. The decisions on Ireland and Belgium repeat the Committee’s 2003 findings on complaints on the same issue. In the new decisions, the Committee notes that there have been no legislative developments on the issue since the earlier findings.

In all four decisions, the Committee states: “The European Committee of Social Rights notes that there is now a wide consensus at both the European and international level among human rights bodies that the corporal punishment of children should be expressly and comprehensively prohibited in law.”

For details of the legality of corporal punishment of children, see the country reports for IrelandSloveniaBelgium and the Czech Republic.

Full details of the decisions and other documents relating to the complaints are available here.