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Deprivation of Liberty at the UN Human Rights Council’s 40th Session

The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council’s (HRC) 40th session took place from February 25th to March 22nd 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.

Annual Day on the Rights of the Child: Empowering Children with Disabilities, including through Inclusive Education

On March 4, the Human Rights Council held its annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child with a panel discussion focusing on empowering children with disabilities for the enjoyment of their human rights, including through inclusive education. The specific situation of children with disabilities placed in institutions was highlighted on several occasions by delegations and civil society participants as well as UN experts. Defence for Children International delivered a statement highlighting the situation of children deprived of liberty in institutions and the need for more disaggregated data and solutions.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children in Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC)

On March 5, 2019, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba, presented her report on the abduction of children in armed conflict and children of or recruited as foreign fighters.

Ms. Gamba stressed that protracted and high-intensity conflicts, cyclical spikes in violence, and operations to counter violent extremism had continued to make children around the world the primary victim of war.  She singled out three trends that required attention:

  • the conditions of children detained for their alleged association to violent extremist groups;
  • attacks on schools; and
  • the abduction of children and its cross-border effects.

Child recruitment and use by non-State armed groups raised new challenges from a child protection perspective, she stated. On children and armed conflict, delegations also highlighted their grave concerned that children in armed conflict continued to be subjected to appalling violations of human rights, notably recruitment, indoctrination and violence.  It was emphasized that continued access to safe education could help protect children and youth from the impact of armed conflict.  The reintegration of children was necessary to guarantee peace and security and break the cycle of violence.

The delegation of Austria mentioned the importance of the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty and thanked the SRSG and her office for their engagement in the Study.

Defence for Children International (DCI) delivered a statement on behalf of the NGO Panel for the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty. The Panel welcomed the report of the SRSG on Children and Armed Conflict and its focus on the abduction of children in armed conflict and children of or recruited as foreign fighters.  The statement highlighted the ongoing detention of children on national security grounds and call on States to continue to contribute to and support the development of the Study and its follow-up.

Side Event on the Impact of Counter-Terrorism Measures on Children

On March 6, 2019, Defence for Children International (DCI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Swiss Mission to the United Nations and the European Union delegation to the United Nations co-hosted a side event on the Impact of Counter-Terrorism Measures on Children including their deprivation of liberty. The event also focused on how these issues will be addressed by the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.

The panel featured Ms. Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG), Mr. Leo Ratledge, Legal and Policy Director at Child Rights International Network (CRIN), Ms. Jo Becker, Advocacy Director of the Children’s Rights division at HRW, and Professor Manfred Nowak,  Independent Expert leading the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, with Alex Kamarotos, Executive Director of DCI – International Secretariat as moderator.

The panel opened with the intervention of SRSG Gamba who presented her recent report to the UN Human Rights Council, which included a focus on the abduction of children in armed conflict and children of or recruited as foreign fighters.  Leo Ratledge presented CRIN’s recent study “Caught in the Crossfire” about the effect of counter-terrorism legislation on children calling for a safeguarding approach, not criminalisation. Jo Becker presented Human Rights Watch’s new report  “Everyone Must Confess:” Abuses against Children Suspected of ISIS Affiliation in Iraq.” She reinforced the message that rehabilitation is key.

The participation of Professor Manfred Nowak focused on the Study and its preliminary data. He expressed concerns about broad legislation in the area of national security. Prof. Nowak stressed that children should only be tried through juvenile justice systems and that a peaceful reintegration avoiding deprivation of liberty is key. He reminded participants of the legal framework on deprivation of liberty of children and made links to the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly 16.2 – End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children.

The panellists agreed on the need to adopt a human rights approach emphasising the effectiveness and importance of prevention and rehabilitation. They also recognized that children should only be tried through juvenile justice systems and that peaceful reintegration avoiding deprivation of liberty is key.

The panel was followed by an interactive question and answer session. SRSG Gamba stressed the importance of the Global Study and the support of her office for its development. She noted that the Study will help to address the lack of data and information on deprivation of liberty. Professor Nowak concluded the event noting that the Study will include recommendations regarding all the different types of deprivation of liberty of children and non-custodial measures.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

On March 6-7, 2019 the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar, presented her report on the rights to liberty and security for people with disabilities. She stated that the deprivation of liberty of persons with disabilities was a serious human rights problem, which remained under-reported.  Persons with disabilities were disproportionately overrepresented in traditional places of deprivation of liberty, such as prisons and migration detention centres.  They also had to face specific and unique forms of deprivation of liberty, such as institutionalization, involuntary hospitalization, and confinement at home.

She called on States which had reservations to article 14 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities –calling for the elimination of the deprivation of liberty for persons with disabilities – to lift them.  She urged states to adopt a rights-based approach and to find alternatives to deprivation of liberty in the community. States should approach that question from the rights-based perspective.  Community-based responses could be found, and they greatly improved the quality of life for persons with disabilities.

Report from UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights  on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism

During the session, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights presented its report on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. The 2019 report focused on children, including child victims and witnesses of terrorist acts, children at perceived risk of recruitment and children associated or suspected of association with terrorist groups. It emphasizes that children in all such situations must be considered and treated as victims of terrorism.

The report highlights that deprivation of liberty of children should only be used a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate time, in line with international standards. It emphasises that formerly associated children who are detained should have access to any necessary rehabilitative health care and psychosocial support, as well as reintegration programmes, both in detention and upon release.

Final Experts meeting for the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty

The final Experts meeting for the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty was held at the Global Campus of Human Rights in Venice, Italy from March 11th – 13th included. Representatives from the Advisory Board, research groups, the NGO Panel, and the UN Inter-Agency Task Force attended three full days of meetings covering each of the pillars of the Study: children deprived of liberty in the administration of justice; children living in places of detention with their parents; children deprived of liberty for migration-related reasons; children deprived of liberty in institutions; children deprived of liberty related to armed conflict and children deprived of liberty for national security reasons. The cross-cutting themes of the impact of deprivation on liberty on children’s health, gender, children with disabilities, and children’s experiences of deprivation of liberty were discussed as well as over-arching topics such as the legal framework, conclusions and recommendations, and follow-up to the Study. Research leads for both the cross-cutting and thematic chapters presented their drafts, followed by extensive feedback from participants. The Global Study will be finalized in the coming months and the report will be delivered to the UN General Assembly in October 2019.

 

Human Rights Council Side Event on Counter-Terrorism

By Tania García de Gross

 

On March 6, 2019, Defence for Children International (DCI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Swiss Mission to the United Nations and the European Union delegation to the United Nations co-hosted a side event on the Impact of Counter-Terrorism Measures on Children during the 40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The event was an insightful and vivid discussion on the impact of counter-terrorism measures on children, including their deprivation of liberty. The panel featured Ms. Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG), Mr. Leo Ratledge, Legal and Policy Director at Child Rights International Network (CRIN), Ms. Jo Becker, Advocacy Director of the Children’s Rights division at HRW, and Professor Manfred Nowak,  Independent Expert leading the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, with Alex Kamarotos, Executive Director of DCI – International Secretariat as moderator.

Alex Kamarotos opened the event by thanking the European Union delegation and the Swiss mission for co-sponsoring the event. He also welcomed all the participants and underlined that 2019 is a landmark year for the Global Study as it will be delivered to the General Assembly in October.

The panel opened with the intervention of SRSG Gamba who presented her recent report to the UN Human Rights Council, which included a focus on the abduction of children in armed conflict and children of or recruited as foreign fighters. She called on states whose citizens have travelled to join extremist groups to allow them to return following a determination of their best interests and to ensure that no child is left behind nor left stateless. Her message was one of prevention and protection.

Leo Ratledge presented CRIN’s recent report “Caught in the Crossfire” about the effect of counter-terrorism legislation on children. He reminded participants that punitive measures are not necessary and that a human rights approach focused on prevention and rehabilitation is far more effective. He called for an approach focused on safeguarding, not criminalisation, including diversion and non-custodial measures.

A key moment of the event was the presentation of Jo Becker’s new report “Everyone Must Confess:” Abuses against Children Suspected of ISIS Affiliation in Iraq.” After presenting her findings, Becker reinforced the message that rehabilitation is key. Yet too often governments are taking punitive approaches, treating children as criminals, not victims. She concluded with a call to prosecute child recruiters and to help children with rehabilitation and reintegration.

The participation of Professor Manfred Nowak focused on the Study and its preliminary data. He expressed concerns about broad legislation in the area of national security. Prof. Nowak stressed that children should only be tried through juvenile justice systems and that a peaceful reintegration avoiding deprivation of liberty is key. He reminded participants of the legal framework on deprivation of liberty of children and made links to the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly 16.2 – End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children.

The panellists were followed by an interactive question and answer session. Questions covered country-specific situations queries around the Global Study and its next steps, and topics such as the criminalisation of online activity. For her part, Jo Becker concluded by highlighting that the Study will give states guidance on how to better approach deprivation of liberty from a child rights perspective. SRSG Gamba stressed the importance on the Study and the support of her office for its development. She noted that the Study will help to address the lack of data and information on deprivation of liberty. Leo Ratledge and Professor Nowak responded to questions concerning criminalisation of children on national security grounds for online activity stating that they had seen cases of this. Nowak concluded the event noting that the Study will include recommendations regarding all the different types of deprivation of liberty of children and non-custodial measures.

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NGO Panel delivers a statement at the UN Human Rights Council 40th session

On March 5, 2019, the NGO Panel for the United Nations Global on Children Deprived of Liberty delivered a statement during the Interactive Dialogue with Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children
and Armed Conflict.

The NGO Panel took the opportunity to thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Children and Armed Conflict and its focus on the abduction of children in armed conflict and children of or recruited as foreign fighters.

The NGO Panel call on States to continue to contribute to and support the development of the Study and its follow-up, and to implement its recommendations.

 

Check the full written statement here

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Save the Date – Human Rights Council Side Event – March 6

The European Union, Switzerland, Defence for Children International, and Human Rights Watch will hold a side event on the Impact of Counter-Terrorism Measures on Children on March 6 from 13.30 – 15.00 in Room XXIII at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.

In many countries, children are increasingly detained for alleged national security offences. In some countries, hundreds – or even thousands – of children are detained at any given time, as countries have adopted increasingly aggressive counter-terrorism measures. Counterterrorism strategies and legislation have introduced new surveillance measures, restrictions on behaviour, powers of detention, and hundreds of new offences carrying heavy sentences.

The recruitment of children into terrorist or violent extremist groups is often unlawful – and sometimes constitutes trafficking—yet these children are often treated as perpetrators rather than victims.

This side event will explore the impact of counter-terrorism measures on children, including their deprivation of liberty. In particular, it will focus on how these issues will be addressed by the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.

 

Moderator:

Alex Kamarotos, Executive Director of Defence for Children International (DCI)

Panellists: 

  • Prof. Manfred Nowak, Independent Expert, UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty
  • Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict
  • Jo Becker, Children’s Rights Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch (HRW)
  • Leo Ratledge, Legal and Policy Director, Child Rights International Network (CRIN)

 

Please RSVP via email to globalstudy@defenceforchildren.org

Please note that this event is only open to those who currently possess a UN access badge.

 

 

To see the program please click here.

© 2018 November OMCT Tunisie

Regional Consultation in Tunis, Tunisia

On November 26th – 27th, 2018, a consultation for the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region was held in Tunis, Tunisia. The consultation gathered more than 60 government officials, child rights experts, and civil society representatives from across the region to discuss children deprived of liberty in all the settings addressed in the Study.

Professor Manfred Nowak presented the Study and in-depth workshops were held to identify the ways in which children are deprived of their liberty, particular challenges for children in the MENA region, and non-custodial measures. A workshop on children’s consultations and their views on deprivation of liberty was also held.

 

The concept note in English can be found here.

The concept note in Arabic can be found here.

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#FreeKids video – Encouraging child participation in the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty

#FreeKids video – Encouraging child participation in the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty:

Professor Manfred Nowak has recorded a video to encourage child participation in the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty. Professor Nowak places children at the core of the Study and calls on them to share their stories and experiences in order to help others.

 

Click here to see the video.

 

Three girls stand in the concrete yard of the women's prison at Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, the capital. Behind her stands a concrete wall, topped with barbed wire. Laundry lies on the ground at her feet. Arrests of minors are frequently gang-related, with alleged offences ranging from petty crime to gun possession and assault. Children are often forcibly inducted into gangs, where they face violence from older gang members, rival gangs and the authorities. Many girls have been sexually abused, and some are HIV-positive. Once in prison, they can be held indefinitely without being charged or tried. UNICEF provides sanitation kits and educational and art supplies to this prison.  [#3 IN SEQUENCE OF SEVEN]

In December 2005 in Haiti, children face extreme poverty, violence and chronic insecurity. UNICEF's Child Alert Report on Haiti is the second in a series that documents the effect of crisis situations on children. The report, to be released on 22 March 2006, warns that decades-long political instability and weak institutions have created a climate of lawlessness and social disintegration that have exacerbated conditions of poverty. In addition, Haiti's vulnerability to natural disasters has deepened the environmental crisis of deforestation and erosion. The consequences for children are devastating. Each year, 20 per cent of children under five die from preventable illnesses, the highest child mortality rate in the Americas. Just 11 per cent of Haitians have running water in their homes, and 40 per cent have no access to safe water at all. Many thousands of children work as domestic servants or live in slums or on the streets, where they are vulnerable to gang violence, kidnapping and sexual exploitation. Only 54 per cent of children attend primary school, and of these, the majority leave school after just four years in order to work or care for younger siblings. More than 200,000 children have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

Save the date: 26th November, 2018 – Regional Consultation, Tunis

A consultation for the Middle East North Africa region will take place on November 26th – 27th, 2018 in Tunis, Tunisia. The consultation will gather government officials, child rights experts, and civil society representatives from across the region to discuss children deprived of liberty in all the settings addressed in the Study. The Independent Expert, Professor Manfred Nowak is going to present the Global Study before members of the research groups lead discussions in each of their respective areas.

The concept note in English can be found here.

The concept note in Arabic can be found here.

Regional Consultation in Montevideo, Uruguay

On October 25, 2018, a consultation was held in Montevideo, Uruguay to discuss key themes related to the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty. Civil society representatives from across the region participated in discussions on children deprived of their liberty in the administration of justice, in institutions, and in the context of migration as well as those detained their parents. Professor Manfred Nowak presented the Study via video message and appointed Professor Mary Beloff, member of the Advisory Board and expert in children’s rights and criminal law, to represent the Study. Panellists and participants held vibrant discussions on the rights of the children deprived of their liberty, particular challenges for children in the Latin American region, and the need for non-custodial measures.

Professor Nowak’s video can be found here.

“There is no prison prepared for human beings. And it’s worse for children. They are treated like adults.” – Nora Laura Calandra, Red de Niñez Encarcelada (Incarcerated Children Network), Argentina

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.