North American Consultation for the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty

On October 10, 2018, a North American Consultation was held in support of the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty in New York City, United States of America. The consultation was hosted by the Justice Lab at Columbia University.

The consultation opened with a presentation by the Independent Expert leading the Global Study, Professor Manfred Nowak, who presented the current status of the Study, underlining the progress that had been made to date, including the more than 80 questionnaires received and the consultations previously held in Asia, Africa, and South Africa.

It then opened up to a panel of experts including Melissa Sickmund, Director of the National Center for Juvenile Justice, Candice Jones, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Public Welfare Foundation, former Director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, Hernan Carvente, National Youth Partnership Strategist, James Bell (by video), Founder and President of the W. Haywood Burns Institute, Heather Renwick, Legal Director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, Marcy Mistrett, CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice, Jennifer Nagda, Policy Director, Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights at the University of Chicago Law School, and Elizabeth Clarke, from Juvenile Justice Iniciative. 

The panellists discussed the scale of deprivation of liberty of children in the criminal justice system, including children who are placed in the adult system, in the USA, the harm such detention has on children as well as on their families and communities, and the needs for alternatives. Liz Ryan of Youth First Initiative presented Professor Nowak with data on children deprived of liberty in the administration of justice in the USA on behalf of several non-governmental organisations.

Part of the experience of being incarcerated is I have those memories to this day. Those memories of incarceration never leave me. I continue to remember every day that experience and try to avoid dealing with that. But throughout the course of my time in that facility, I developed several other mental health issues, which to this day, I have been officially diagnosed for with PTSD, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and these are things that were exacerbated by the conditions of incarceration and certainly were exacerbated because the different challenges that I experienced while I was there.”

Hernan Carvente, National Youth Partnership Strategist

The full consultation can be found online here.


SEPTEMBER 2018: Deprivation of Liberty at the UN Human Rights Council 39th Session

The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council’s (HRC) 39th session took place from September 10 to 28, 2018 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Deprivation of liberty was an issue that the NGO Panel for the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty followed during the session, participating in the plenary sessions and side events, meetings with different stakeholders and conducting advocacy. Deprivation of liberty was discussed on these occasions:


UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Opening Session

The newly-appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, addressed the Council for the first time. She highlighted that separating and detaining families offers no long-term solutions to anyone – only more hostility, misery, suffering, and chaos. Several States also showed concern at the increase of migrant children being detained and families being separated.


Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

On September 12, 2018, during the Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mr. Seong-Phil Hong, Chair of the Group, noted that there was an increasing emergence of deprivation of liberty not only in prisons but also in migration centres and medical institutions, including of children. He presented the Working Group’s report on Consular assistance and diplomatic protection for persons deprived of liberty and the linkages between arbitrary detention and instances of torture and ill-treatment. This report includes, in its annex, the revised deliberation No. 5 on deprivation of liberty of migrants. As stated by Hong, this revision reflects changes in international law and jurisprudence during the last 20 years.

The International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE) delivered a statement on behalf of the NGO Panel for the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty thanking the Group for highlighting that the deprivation of liberty of asylum-seeking, refugee, stateless, and migrant children, including unaccompanied or separated children, is prohibited, and for clearly mentioning the need for alternatives to detention. The NGO Panel also called on States to support the Global Study by providing more quality, disaggregated data on children deprived of liberty and examples of alternatives to detention in their countries as well as by participating in the upcoming consultations and contributing with political and financial support.


Side Event with Professor Manfred Nowak

On September 10, during a side event organised by the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein and the All Survivors Project on “Hidden Victims: Sexual Violence against Men and Boys in Conflict.” Professor Manfred Nowak noted that boys are also victims of sexual violence when deprived of their liberty. He emphasized that this is an under-reported and taboo topic. According to international law, children should always be separated from adults, but the reality is that they are often detained with adults, and this can exacerbate the of sexual violence between men and boys. As the Independent Expert leading the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, he reminded the audience that the Global Study addresses different settings of deprivation of liberty, including in the context of armed conflict and for migration-related reasons.


Side Event: “Arbitrary detention in the Americas: The Cases of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Mexico”

On September 12, at a side event on arbitrary detention organised by the Mexican Commission of Human Rights, cases of people being arbitrarily detained, mostly journalists, politics and civil society members, was discussed. It was highlighted that this is contradictory to international and human rights law. Human Rights Watch reported that, according to their findings, among the people detained in Nicaragua during the demonstrations, 10 were children.


Side Event: “The Human Rights Situation and Changes of Peace in Yemen”

On September 19, at a side event organised by the Permanent Mission of Yemen on the human rights situation in the country, the Minister of Human Rights of Yemen said that the situation in the country is very concerning, with Yemenis suffering from all forms of human rights violations. Hundreds of people had been detained, most arbitrarily, and some in secret prisons, including children.


Professor Manfred Nowak update on the Global Study at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly Third Committee

On Tuesday, October 9, 2018, during the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly Third Committee panel discussion on the rights of the child, Professor Manfred Nowak, the Independent Expert for the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty did an update on the study’s progress and implementation phase.

The full speech can be found below:

“Thank you very much Mr./Mrs. Chairperson for the opportunity to address the Third Committee of the General Assembly,

Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

In 2014, in resolution 69/157, the Assembly invited the Secretary-General to commission an in-depth global study on children deprived of liberty, funded through voluntary contributions and conducted in close cooperation with relevant United Nations agencies and in consultation with relevant stakeholders, including Member States, civil society, academia and children, and to include good practices and recommendations for action to effectively realize all relevant rights of the child,

Following an extension in 2017, I will present a comprehensive Global Study to you one year from now.

The Study’s implementation phase was severely delayed due to lack of funding which was to come through voluntary contributions. Indeed, most of 2017 was dedicated to concerted fundraising efforts, to build an initial funding base for the Study to be realized. These efforts proved positive as approximately 1 million USD was raised by means of contributions received by Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Malta, Qatar, the European Union (EU), UNICEF and a private foundation. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our friends of the Global Study for truly having saved the Study through their support. The need to continue joint fundraising efforts however remains, since the Global Study is still operating on essentially one fifth of its total budget.

Due to the funding challenges, the Study only commenced its effective implementation phase in early 2018, which included the adoption of a methodological framework to guide and structure the Study process.

Despite our limited resources, our joint activities have been maximized, and the Study has managed to enter its implementation phase with data being collected and good practices identified by means of a specific questionnaire and consultations, as well as thematic chapters being drafted by different research groups. The Global Study Team at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights now coordinates 9 research groups with more than 100 innovative, hard-working and committed researchers and practitioners across all continents. Next to the growing research network, an expanding and vibrant civil society network carries the Global Study. That said, I wish to thank all UN agencies, NGOs and academic institutions for their invaluable input pro bono. This does not go un-noticed and is deeply appreciated. The Global Study will be a truly joint achievement of many different Stakeholders.

In February 2018, a questionnaire to inform the Global Study was circulated to all member States and other stakeholders by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), and a reminder was circulated again in June 2018. To date a total of 86 replies have been received (53 from States and 33 from other relevant actors including UN agencies, National Human Rights Institutions, Ombudspersons, National Preventive Mechanisms and Non-Governmental Organizations). I take the opportunity to thank those who submitted a reply to the questionnaire and I am happy to see that many different actors are actively engaging in this important process, which shall leave a sustainable blueprint for all governments for future data collection on the situation of children deprived of liberty.

A total of six consultations already took place and four others will follow soon: Warsaw, Poland; Brussels, EU; Bangkok, Thailand; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Paris, France; Pretoria, South Africa; New York, United States; and upcoming consultations will take place in Montevideo, Uruguay (at the end of October); Tunis, Tunisia (November) and Montego Bay, Jamaica (December). Furthermore, two expert meetings took place in Venice in 2017 and in Vienna in 2018. I take this opportunity to thank all of those actors who supported the Global Study in providing these vital platforms and their expertise.

Moving forward, in 2019, the Study will enter its final phase, wherein the desk research carried out by the various research groups and the data received through the questionnaires and consultations will be consolidated into different chapters of the Global Study. It is foreseen that an expert meeting takes place in March 2019, to critically review all of the information gathered. This meeting would include members of the Advisory Board, leads of the different research groups and members of the United Nations Interagency Taskforce as well as children as they are experts in their own rights. A Global Study on children cannot happen without the active involvement of children.

Notwithstanding the achievements reached to date, challenges remain. Last year, when I addressed the Third Committee, I hoped not to have to come back to the financial situation; to be able to report that the funding situation was no longer our concern. However, we still require further funding to ensure the Study is completed to the best extent possible and in a professional manner. I call again on member States to step up and support this important process, particularly considering how far we have come with extremely limited resources. Let us not lose this momentum for children’s rights just because of financial shackles.

I am deeply convinced that the Global Study will have a milestone impact on the situation of children deprived of liberty. In the almost thirty years since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the issue of children being deprived of liberty has never been adequately addressed and continues to lag behind compared to other areas of the international treaty. Deprivation of liberty is an extremely serious issue, not only violating basic international human rights obligations but exposing each and every child who is detained, for whatever reason, to further human rights violations. With immigration detention currently on the rise, there seems to be more regression than improvement in the situation.

Dear friends, let me remind you, why it is important that the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty is a success. Deprivation of liberty of children is not merely an issue of international legal obligations not being fulfilled, but it has serious harmful effects on the mental and physical health and development of children and on society at large. Witnessing children behind bars during my time as United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture was heart-breaking, as many children are tortured, neglected or isolated and crying for
help. The youngest victim I met was a three-year-old orphan in a terrifying institution that warehoused boys in a variety of situations and employed daily beatings for minor infractions.

The Global Study aims to bridge the data gap on the number of children in such situations and raise awareness about the risks posed to society as a whole. The Study will also develop evidence-based recommendations and compile best practices to help States uphold international obligations and reduce the number of children deprived of liberty – making children’s rights a reality and leaving no child behind.

I thank you for your time and attention and welcome any questions, comments or pledges you may have.”

©Juvenile Justice Advocates International (5)

Save the Date: October 10, 2018 – North American Regional Consultation for Civil Society

On October 10, 2018, the Columbia University’s Justice Lab is going to host a regional consultation for civil society in support of the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty in New York City, United States of America. It will have the presence of the Independent Expert leading the Global Study, Professor Manfred Nowak, and several other experts in juvenile justice, including Melissa Sickmund, Director of the National Center for Juvenile Justice, Candice Jones, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Public Welfare Foundation, former Director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice and Jennifer Nagda, Policy Director, Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights at the University of Chicago Law School.

The consultation will primarily focus on the deprivation of liberty of children in the administration of justice in the United States. It will address the harms caused to children, families, and communities when children are deprived of their liberty in the juvenile or criminal justice system. The intersection with the detention of children on the basis of their status as a migrant will also be discussed.

The aim of this regional consultation is to inform the UN Global Study and increase public awareness. It will provide the latest quantitative and qualitative research on children in conflict with the law in North America.  It will also present testimony from youth who have been confined in juvenile justice institutions or criminal justice jails and prisons. Most importantly, it will present a vision of an alternative justice system that responds to youth in developmentally appropriate and effective ways.

If you have any questions, please contact

For more information click here.