The Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty will cover deprivation of liberty in all its forms, following the definition laid down in the UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty 1990 (Havana Rules):

“Deprivation of liberty means any form of detention or imprisonment or the placement of a person under the age of 18 in a public or private custodial setting, from which this person is not permitted to leave at will, by order of any judicial, administrative or other public authority”

The Study will include children deprived of liberty in the following contexts:

  • Administration of justice
  • Living in places of detention with their parents
  • Migration
  • Institutions
  • Armed conflict
  • National security

5 research groups have been established:

  • Children deprived of liberty in the administration of justice – NGO focal point: Defence for Children International (DCI) (Helen Griffiths), Child Rights International Network (CRIN) (Leo Ratledge)
  • Children living in places of detention with their parents – NGO focal point: Children of Prisoners Europe (COPE) (Rachel Brett), Quakers (Laurel Townhead)
  • Children deprived of liberty for migration-related reasons – NGO focal point: Human Rights Watch (HRW) (Michael Garcia Bochenek)
  • Children deprived of liberty in institutions – NGO focal point: Lumos (Anna Darling), SOS Kindersdorf International
  • Children deprived of liberty related to armed conflict and national security– NGO focal point: HRW (Jo Becker)

Cross-cutting issues:

Cross-cutting issues of the impact of deprivation on liberty on children’s health, gender, disability, and child participation will also be included in the study.

The Advisory Board to the Study is as follows:

  • Ann Skelton (South Africa) (Chair of the UN Global Study Advisory Board) – Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
  • Malcom Evans (United Kingdom) (Vice-Chair of the UN Global Study Advisory Board) – Chair of the UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture
  • Andrew Coyle (United Kingdom) – Adviser on Prison and Criminal justice matters to the OHCHR, UNODC and the UN Latin American Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Council of Europe (CPT)
  • Barry Goldson (United Kingdom) – Professor of Criminology and Social Policy, School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool
  • Benyam Mezmur (Ethiopia) – Current Member and Former Chair, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
  • Ben Lewis (Unites States) – Human Rights Officer, Migration and Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • Catalina Devandas Aguilar (Costa Rica) – UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • Dainius Puras (Lithuania) – Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health
  • Hina Jilani (Pakistan) – Former Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders (2000 – 2008)
  • Jean Zermatten (Switzerland) – Founder and Director of the International Institute for the Rights of the ChildFormer Chair of UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
  • Juan Mendez (Argentina) – Professor of Law and Human Rights Activist; Former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (2008 – 2016)
  • Leila Zerrougui (Algeria) – Former Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
  • Mary Beloff (Argentina) – Children’s Rights and Criminal Law Expert, Faculty of Law, University of Buenos Aires
  • Maud de Boer-Buquicchio (Netherlands) – UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
  • Pablo Ceriani Cernadas (Argentina) – Vice Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of Migrants
  • Thomas Hammarberg (Sweden) – Former Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe (2006-2012); Former Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (1991-1997)
  • Ton Liefaard (Netherlands) – Professor of Children’s Rights and holds the UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights at Leiden University, Leiden Law School
  • Ursula Kilkelly (United Kingdom) – Dean, School of Law, University College Cork, Director of the Child Law Clinic
  • Usang Maria Assim (South Africa) – Senior Researcher Children’s Rights Project, Dullah Omar Institute for Constitutional Law, Governance and Human Rights, University of the Western Cape
  • Vitit Muntarbhorn (Thailand) – UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (2016 –present). Former Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (1990 – 1994)
  • Jo Becker (United States) – Advocacy director of the Children’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch (HRW)
  • Benoit Van Keirsbilck (Belgium) – Director of Defence for Children International (DCI) – Belgium

Given the goals, the Study will include the following elements:


A review of relevant legal standards can be found here.


To document the numbers of children deprived of liberty, the study will collect data, including disaggregated data on age, gender, vulnerable groups, and the reason/basis for detention (based on the above scope), through different methodologies:

  • Global Study Questionnaire

In February 2018, the Independent Expert sent out the Questionnaire  on the UN Global Study on Children deprived of Liberty to governments and other relevant stakeholders, including international monitoring bodies, UN agencies, such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI), National Preventive Mechanisms, and academia. The collection of the responses to the Questionnaire will be facilitated through an online database.

  • Review of existing literature

The research process will include research on literature review of articles and academic reports; UN documentation, including relevant reports by UN special procedures, submissions and concluding observations from UN treaty bodies and relevant information from the Universal Periodic Review (UPR); information gathered from NHRIs/Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC); and a review of civil society contributions.

  • Thematic and regional consultations

Deprivation of liberty can take on many different forms, with differing root causes, conditions, and impacts. Given the broad scope of the Study, a series of expert consultations on the following themes will take place. These consultations will incorporate an in-depth analysis on certain issues with a broad range of stakeholders, including State authorities, UN agencies, academia and civil society, fostering regional engagement.

  • Study preparation and presentation

Analytical reports from the responses to the Questionnaire, commissioned papers and reports, desk research findings as well as results from thematic and regional consultations and consultations with children will feed into the preparation of the Global Study report.

The Independent Expert, with support, will prepare a consolidated draft of the Global Study, which will be submitted to the UN Inter agency Task Force, Advisory Board and the NGO Panel for review.

In October 2019, the Independent Expert will present the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty to the UN General Assembly, followed by the launch of the accompanying Study publication