At the Women's Prison in Petionville, 20-30 detainees cram into each prison cell where women and girls and young as 14 sleep on the floor, often in shifts, and the majority wait years to see a judge. More than 80% of all detainees in Haiti are being held in prolonged pretrial detention during which time inmates can wait between 4-6 years for their court case to be heard. 
Photo Victoria Hazou UN/MINUSTAH

UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women Calls for Submissions on Women and Girls Deprived of Liberty

The United Nations Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice is presenting a thematic report on women deprived of liberty at the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2019. This report aims to take a comprehensive approach to the issue of women and girls deprived of liberty by including various forms of restriction or interference with women’s personal liberty or movement by state and non-state actors, including on the basis of their sex and prescribed gender roles. It will examine the causes, nature, and extent of the deprivation of liberty of women and girls, with particular attention to the impact of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls.

Therefore, the Working Group is calling for States and other stakeholders, including NGOs, to fill in a questionnaire (English, French, Spanish), as well as to send documents and reports of consultations with information on women deprived of liberty for submission for the Working Group’s consideration.

Given the recent increased focus on the deprivation of liberty from States, civil society, academia, and the United Nations, the NGO Panel for the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty considers that this is an excellent opportunity to continue the work on the deprivation of liberty and the development of international law in this area, and to focus on the specific barriers and challenges faced by women and girls.

The submissions should be sent to

The deadline for submissions is October 12, 2018.


JUNE/ JULY 2018: Deprivation of Liberty at the 38th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s (HRC) 38th session took place from June 18 to July 6, 2018 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Health on Deprivation of Liberty

On June 18, 2018, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Mr. Dainius Puras, presented his thematic report on the right to health in the context of confinement and deprivation of liberty, which included a focus on children deprived of liberty. He regretted that, in the 21st century, uncountable millions of children continue to be detained or awaiting trial, highlighting the negative impact that deprivation of liberty has on the right to physical, psychological, mental, and emotional health on children as well as poor sanitation, lack of fresh air and safe drinking water, and physical and sexual abuse by staff and peers. The Special Rapporteur called for the abolition of detention of children, stating that children should only be deprived of their liberty in very exceptional situations. Alternatives to detention, investing in families at risk, helping children to have good skills to live in the community, and involving adolescents in preventive programmes, were some his recommendations. Read a shortened version of his findings here.

Defence for Children International (DCI) , on behalf of the NGO Panel for the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, delivered a statement during the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur . The NGO Panel welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s report and called on Member States and observers to engage with the Study, including by answering the questionnaire. The International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE) also delivered a statement welcoming the Special Rapporteur’s reference about the adverse conditions that affect physical and mental health on children deprived of liberty or confined and calling for engagement with the Global Study.

Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants Highlights Dangers of Deprivation of Liberty

On June 19, Mr. Felipe González Morales, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, presented his report on the return and reintegration of migrants. He noted that, under international human rights law, children should never be detained for immigration purposes, nor can detention be justified as being in a child’s best interests. He stated that alternatives to deprivation of liberty must be found, including family-based solutions. Furthermore, he expressed concern about children being separated from their families, especially considering that migrant children in many countries were not being provided with the basic services they needed. During the interactive dialogue with Mr. González Morales, Austria highlighted the lack of information around detention of children including numbers, location, and conditions of detention, and called upon governments to engage with the Global Study, including by answering the official questionnaire and providing relevant quantitative and qualitative data. Expressing similar concerns, UNICEF and several non-governmental organisations, including VIDES and Human Rights Law Centre showed concern regarding the growing number of children being detained, deported, and separated from their families. ECPAT International urged member States to support the Global Study, including by providing disaggregated data on boys and girls in detention.


JULY 2018: Thematic Consultation on Institutions in Pretoria, South Africa

A thematic consultation on children in institutions was held in Pretoria, South Africa from July 26-27, 2018. It was hosted by the Centre for Child Law in the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria together with UNICEF. The consultation gathered representatives from several international non-governmental organisations such as Defence for Children International (DCI), Hope and Homes, Lumos, Disability Rights International, SOS Children Villages International, the Better Care Network, the Center for Disability Law and Policy as well as UNICEF and the CELCIS Centre of the University of Strathclyde.

The consultation started with keynote speeches from Professor Manfred Nowak, the Independent Expert leading the Study; Johann van der Westhuizen, the Inspecting Judge of Prisons in South Africa and retired Justice of the South African Constitutional Court, also currently the Head of the Department of Jurisprudence in the Faculty of Law; and Professor Ann Skelton from Centre for Child Law of the University of Pretoria.

It featured rich discussions on key topics relevant to children deprived of their liberty in institutions, including definitional challenges, the causes and consequences of such practices and the specific situation of children with disabilities, migrant children, orphans, lesbian, gay, bisexual and intersex children, and children with “behavioural” problems among others. The discussions from the consultation will feed into the Study and addressed the identification of interesting practices, the need for a de-institutionalisation process, and the recommendations that should be addressed to all stakeholders.