Dr. Benyam Dawit Mezmur, 32, Elected as a Member of the UN Children’s Rights Committee

Photo: Dr. Benyam Dawit Mezmur

New York, NY
Dec. 18, 2012

At the United Nations’ meeting of the State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Children, the members elected Dr. Benyam Dawit Mezmur, 32 as one of the members of the UN Children’s Rights Committee.

The state parties elected nine members among the fifteen candidates. Ethiopia’s candidate got the fifth largest vote, and higher than the candidates from Russia, Ecuador, Slovakia, Bahrain, Uganda, Togo, Malawi, Mauritius and Syria.

Dr. Mezmur was the only African candidate who got elected among the six African candidates who were running for the same position. This is yet another victory for Ethiopia, and Africa!!

This election was held at a critical time when the right and protection of children at a global level is taking more centre stage. In the last two decades, Ethiopia has made substantial progress in the promotion of the rights and welfare of its children. To mention but few, the primary education enrolment rate has increased astronomically; child mortality and malnutrition has been reduced significantly; and promoting equal rights of for females is showing encouraging results. But, no doubt, much and much more remains to be done.

It is because of its conviction to the cause of the rights and welfare of children that Ethiopia has presented the candidature of one of its young and brightest sons, Dr. Benyam Dawit Mezmur, to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Dr. Mezmur currently serves as an Assistant Professor at the Addis Ababa University, Faculty of Law. He is also the Chairperson of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of Children of the African Union. He is 32 years old, and holds a Doctorate in Law (LLD) with a focus on children’s rights.

The working relationship between the Committee on the Rights of Children and the Government of Ethiopia is also a very exemplary one. In 2008, Ethiopia was the only country from Africa and one of 15 countries in the world that had submitted its 3rd report. Recently, Ethiopia has submitted its combined 4th and 5th Periodic Report and awaits consideration of the report by the Committee. State parties to the Convention have shown, in no uncertain terms, their confidence in Ethiopia and its candidate. Ethiopia is very grateful for the overwhelming support its candidate has received. It is indeed a source of pride that Ethiopia, through Dr. Mezmur, was given an opportunity to represent Africa in this important Committee.

Below is the official press release from the UN:

December 18, 2012
General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



 Meeting Also Picks Chair, Three Vice-Chairs after Qatar Withdraws Its Candidate

In a single round of voting today, the Fourteenth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child elected nine members to the 18-member committee charged with monitoring implementation of the treaty and its two Optional Protocols.

Voting by secret ballot, the Meeting elected the following to the Committee on the Rights of the Child:
Wanderlino Nogueira Neto (Brazil);
Renate Winter (Austria);
Yasmeen Muhamad Shariff (Malaysia);
Maria Rita Parsi (Italy);
Benyam Dawit Mezmur (Ethiopia);
Olga A. Khazova (Russian Federation);
Sara de Jesús Oviedo Fierro (Ecuador);
Peter Guran (Slovakia); and
Amal Aldoseri (Bahrain).

Elected to four-year terms, they will replace members whose terms expire on 28 February 2013.

The Convention, adopted by the General Assembly in 1989, was the first instrument to set out a complete range of international human rights for children.  Of its two Optional Protocols, adopted on 25 May 2000, the first restricts the involvement of children in armed conflict, while the second prohibits the sale of children, as well as child prostitution and child pornography.

Delivering opening remarks on behalf of the Secretary-General, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović said the adoption on 19 December 2011 of the Convention’s third Optional Protocol, on a communications procedure, marked a major event in the protection of children’s rights.  It charged the Committee with examining individual and inter-State communications, and initiating inquiries into grave or systematic violations of the Convention.  Opened for signature on 28 February 2012, it would enter into force upon ratification by 10 States parties, he said, noting that 35 States had signed it to date, and two others — Gabon and Thailand — had ratified it.

He went on to state that since the last meeting two years ago, 11 States had ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, bringing the number of States parties to 150.  He said 22 States had ratified the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, bringing that total to 162.  The Convention itself had been accepted by 193 States parties, making it one of the “great success stories of the United Nations human rights treaty system”.

Since October 2010, he recalled, the Committee had examined 61 reports submitted by States parties:  39 under article 44 of the Convention; 12 under article 12 of the Second Optional Protocol; and 10 under article 8 of the First Optional Protocol.  However, 107 reports were pending consideration, representing a three-to-four-year delay between submission to and consideration by the Committee.

Nonetheless, in January 2011, the Committee had adopted General Comment No. 13 on the right of the child to freedom from all forms of violence, he continued, adding that three general comments would likely be adopted at the next session, in January 2013.  With a view to prioritizing the backlog of reports, the Committee had adopted several measures at its last session, including a decision not to entertain any new proposals for general comments.

In other business today, States parties elected, by acclamation, Jim McLay ( New Zealand) as Chair of the Fourteenth Meeting, following his nomination by Saul Weisleder ( Costa Rica).  Elected Vice-Chairs were:  Stelios Makriyiannis (Cyprus), nominated by the Group of Asian States; Matej Marn (Slovenia), nominated by the Group of Eastern European States; and Janine Elizabeth Coye-Felson (Belize), nominated by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States.

Mr. McLay then informed the Meeting that Qatar had withdrawn its candidate, Fareeda Abdulla al-Obaidly, on 21 November.

Costa Rica’s delegate, speaking also on behalf of Slovenia after the elections, urged addressing the backlog problem in a sustainable and comprehensive manner during the General Assembly’s inter-governmental process for strengthening treaty body.  “We cannot shirk our responsibility to take urgent measures as necessary,” he said, noting that Costa Rica and Slovenia had presented a draft resolution in the Third Committee which sought to authorize the Committee to meet in parallel sessions, in order to prevent the backlog from reaching “unimaginable proportions”.  Requesting support for that text in the Assembly plenary, he called for the addition of an agenda item addressing the backlog of reports before the Committee.

Liechtenstein’s representative pointed out that the Committee had substantive tasks before it, including the Third Optional Protocol’s entry into force.  It also faced problems of a systemic nature, among them the disproportion between its work capacity and the number of reports submitted to it.  A sustainable solution was urgently needed and would hopefully be possible in the framework of the Assembly’s inter-governmental negotiations.

He encouraged the Committee to consider the improvements proposed in the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on strengthening treaty bodies, noting that the Assembly’s process for enhancing the treaty body system had given rise to a number of proposals, the implementation of which fell under the legal competence of States parties.  Discussing such matters in the framework of the Meeting of States Parties would help strengthen the treaty bodies and the Convention itself, he said.

Voting Results

Number of ballots:


Number of invalid ballots:


Number of valid ballots:




Number of members voting:


Required majority:


Number of votes obtained:
Wanderlino Nogueira Neto ( Brazil)


Renate Winter ( Austria)


Yasmeen Muhamad Shariff ( Malaysia)


Maria Rita Parsi (Italy)


Benyam Dawit Mezmur ( Ethiopia)


Olga A. Khazova ( Russian Federation)


Sara de Jesús Oviedo Fierro (Ecuador)


Peter Guran ( Slovakia)


Amal Aldoseri ( Bahrain)


Awich Pollar ( Uganda)


Kamla Devi Varmah (Mauritius)


Suzanna Aho Assouma ( Togo)


Edward Bandawe Twea ( Malawi)


Hariguietta Congo Zongo ( Burkina Faso)


Hadeel al-Asmar ( Syria)


Having obtained the required majority and the largest number of votes, the following were elected to four-year terms on the Committee on the Rights of the Child:
Wanderlino Nogueira Neto (Brazil);
Renate Winter (Austria);
Yasmeen Muhamad Shariff (Malaysia);
Maria Rita Parsi (Italy);
Benyam Dawit Mezmur (Ethiopia);
Olga A. Khazova (Russian Federation);
Sara de Jesús Oviedo Fierro (Ecuador);
Peter Guran(Slovakia); and
Amal Aldoseri (Bahrain).

* *** *

Related News:

Dec. 22, 2012
By Solomon Goshu

Ethiopian becomes member of UN Committee on Rights of Child

Benyam Dawit Mezmur (Ph.D.), a professor of law, was elected to be a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child at the fourteenth meeting of the States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on December 18 in New York. States Parties will elect nine members of the committee to fill the vacancies that will expire on February 28, next year.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child is composed of 18 members of high moral standing and competence in the field covered by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Nominations for memberships on the Committee may be made by States Parties to the Convention, in accordance with article 43 of the Convention. The article states that: “The members of the Committee shall be elected by States Parties from among their nationals and shall serve in their personal capacity, consideration being given to equitable geographical distribution, as well as to the principal legal systems.”

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is the most powerful children’s rights body in the world. It not only has the authority to influence governments’ compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), but also to interpret and expand on the provisions set in the CRC. In the future, it will even be able to examine individual complaints relating to violations of children’s rights. Elections to the Committee on the Rights of the Child take place every two years. Committee members are elected for a term of four years.

Benyam was the only successful candidate from Africa. Five others failed to win a place on the Committee. Benyam, 32, is currently an Assistant Professor at Addis Ababa University, College of Law and Governance Studies. He is also the chairperson of the African Union’s African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Ethiopia, a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, was the only country from Africa and one of only 15 countries in the world to have submitted its 3rd report by 2008.

It has also submitted its combined 4th and 5th Periodic Report, both of which are currently awaiting consideration by the Committee. The election of Ethiopia’s candidate demonstrated the confidence of the State Parties to the Convention in Ethiopia and its candidate.

Benyam is also a Research Fellow at the Community Law Center, Children’s Rights Project, and Lecturer on a part-time basis at the post-graduate level at the Faculty of Law, University of Western Cape.

Benyam serves as a guest lecturer in a number of universities like University of Pretoria, University of Antwerp/Ghent, Tilburg University, Utrecht University, University of Groningen, and Abo Akademi.

He has been involved/contributed to law/policy reform efforts in some countries; done work to research, advise, and/or train on children’s rights issues for governments, and organizations such as the UNICEF, the SRSG VAC, the Hague Conference on Private InternationalLaw, the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), Plan International, Save the Children, the Sexual Rights Initiative, and World Vision. He has also taken part in the adoption of the 3rd Optional Protocol of the CRC.

Benyam was a Legal Officer at the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), serves/served in Expert Groups/Meetings/Advisory Councils/Task Forces such as on juvenile justice (UNODC); financial aspects of intercountry adoption (HCCH); harmful practices (SRSG VAC); Way Forward Project (CCAI); on violence against children (ACPF); and on education. Benyam Dawit serves in child rights organizations’ boards(“Beyond the Orphanage”); is a member of ANPPCAN, the Africa Wide Movement for Children and more. Benyam has also been invited as speaker at many international and regional conferences/workshops.

He holds a Doctorate in Law (LLD) from the University of Western Cape. He has a Masters in Law (LLM) in Human Rights and Democratization (CHR) from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, Postgraduate Diploma in International Protection of Human Rights from Abo Akademi, Finland, Bachelor of Laws (LLB) Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia; and Certificates in Mental Disability Law (CEU, Budapest); Development Law; International Criminal and Humanitarian
Law; ESC Rights and more.

Source: TheReporterEthiopia.com