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The application of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child by national courts

On 3 December 2019, Meda Couzens defended her thesis 'The application of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child by national courts'. The doctoral research was supervised by Prof. T. Liefaard and Prof. J.J. Sloth-Nielsen.

Meda Couzens
03 December 2019
Leiden Repository

Meda Couzens focuses on three legal systems: Australia, France and South Africa. These jurisdictions represent three different reception models of international treaties in the domestic legal order: dualist, monist and hybrid respectively. The core of the thesis contains three case studies on the application of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) by courts of highest jurisdiction in the legal systems mentioned. In these case studies, Couzens describes and analyses why, how, and with what consequences, the courts have engaged with or applied the CRC.

Couzens found that the reception rules for international treaties could only partially explain the manner in which courts engaged with the Convention, and that many other factors, formal and informal, influenced the application of the CRC by the domestic courts. Couzens found that courts in the three countries did not use all avenues open to them to give effect to the CRC, but also that they were creative at times and used the strengths of their particular system to give effect to the Convention. In this way, the courts compensated to a certain extent for the vulnerability of domestic legal frameworks which were not sufficiently cognizant of children’s rights. An interesting aspect in relation to all three jurisdictions was the popularity with the courts of the concept of the best interests of the child as enshrined in Article 3 (1) of the CRC. This indicates the great potential for further developments in relation to the rights of children encapsulated in the general principles of the Convention.

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