snisdgsg (1)

DCI Webinar: Solutions to Deprivation of Liberty, Integral Protection and Access to Justice for All Children

On July 12th 2021, almost 2 years after the presentation of the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty at the United Nations General Assembly, while the High-Level Political Forum was ongoing in New York, and in a context where the pandemic had disrupted child protection and justice systems, hindered access to justice for children in detention and exacerbated health risks for children deprived of liberty, Defence for Children International, Human Rights Watch as co-chairs of the NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty, organised a webinar on Promoting Alternatives to Deprivation of Liberty, Integral Protection and Access to Justice for All Children. The participants had the opportunity to hear about a varied roster of panellists, which involved practitioners, experts, state representatives, UN officials, NGOs and youth representatives, a panel moderated by Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on violence against children.

H.E. Ambassador Lansana Gberie reiterated Sierra Leone’s commitment towards promoting child justice and reducing the rate of detention and prosecution of children in conflict with the law, and shared good practices and initiatives already being implemented in the country on combatting child detention and child trafficking. H.E. also emphasized the need to strengthen alternatives to detention and alternatives to the justice system in general, especially in the context of the pandemic, as well as the need for multi-stakeholder partnerships to achieve the targets of the 2030 Agenda. Likewise, Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, stressed the need to rethink the role of justice for and with children to ensure it has a preventive role and it protects the rights of all children, so as to avoid the contact of children with the justice system in the first place. Of particular importance was the ample inclusion of the voices and perspectives of youth through panellist Mohamed Bangura, a youth representative from Sierra Leone who stated the efforts to prevent children from coming in contact with the law begin with emphasising the legal instruments at our disposal, investing in resources and training to support children in their access to justice, and ensuring information to access justice is child-friendly and accessible for children and their parents.

Moreover, Alexandra Souza Martins, Representative from UNODC on behalf of the UN Inter-agency task force for the UN GSCDL, shared good practices in assisting states to carry out the safe release of children from detention in a smart and sustainable way for their successful reintegration, and also to widen the use and application of alternative measures to detention, and stressed the need for coordinated efforts to implement the recommendations of the UN GSCDL. The event also included interventions from Benoit Van Keirsbilck, GSCDL Advisory Board and Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, who encouraged states to assess their own legislation and practice and develop tailor-made action plans to end child detention, stressed the need of funding to support programmes implementing effective alternatives to detention, and fostered cooperation to ensure a follow-up mechanism is formalised in the form of a UN General Assembly Resolution that ensures the recommendations of the GSCDL are mainstreamed. The webinar also counted with the intervention of Manaff Kemokai, President of DCI and Director of DCI-Sierra Leone, who acknowledged progress in Sierra Leone in the field of child rights, and called for a multidisciplinary, case-by-case approach based on the needs and peculiarities of children, and the development of comprehensive laws with clear procedures and strong implementation institutions that ensure the distinction between children in conflict with the law and children in contact with the law. 

"COVID-19 has underlined the need to strengthen alternatives to detention and alternatives to the justice system in general".

H.E. Ambassador Lansana Gberie - Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the UN in Geneva

H.E. Ambassador Lansana Gberie stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to justice challenges faced by children and created additional obstacles for realising the vison of justice for and with children. It has revealed and exacerbated social inequalities and injustices around the globe and has underlined the need to strengthen alternatives to detention and alternatives to the justice system in general. 

The findings and recommendations of the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty have shed light on the phenomenon by providing reliable data on the scale of this problem and its harmful effects on children. Thanks to the Global Study, “governments are in better conditions to address COVID-19 in child detention facilities, with the recommendations and good practices that are enumerated”, he stated.

 

In line with the UN Secretary-General’s remarks to “build back better” after the pandemic, and guided by the principle of universality enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals, H.E. Ambassador Lansana Gberie stated the need to fulfil the central promise of the 2030 Agenda to “leave no one behind”. To do so, SDG16+ can be the foundation for reset and recovery efforts that are guided by multi-stakeholder partnerships in the face of lagging progress towards achieving Agenda 2030, and for building more resilient societies and institutions going forward. 

Reiterating Sierra Leone’s commitment to towards promoting child justice and reducing the rate of detention and prosecution of children in conflict with the law, H.E. Ambassador Gberie shared good practices in the country, including the implementation of “Justice App5”, an innovative digital case management application which ensures that women and children, victims of sexual and gender-based violence, in remote areas, can access justice. Yet, further progress must be achieved by introducing community-based prevention and rehabilitation programs for children and carryout crimes awareness raising in schools and communities, by developing and implementing new Child Justice Strategy that sets a roadmap for child justice reforms, and by legislating good practices of diversion and alternatives to detention by including them in the Child Rights Act and Criminal Procedure Act.

“The pandemic provides an opportunity to rethink the role of justice for and with children”

Citing strong political commitment and strengthening justice systems as vital elements to successfully end deprivation of liberty, Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, underpinned that “building peaceful, just and inclusive societies as well as sustainable and resilient development cannot be fulfilled unless we can ensure all children are duly protected, have equal access to justice without discrimination and justice in its broadest sense, meets the needs and rights of children”. COVID-19 has increased violence against children and gender-based violence, and has given rise to justice challenges faced by children, mainly for those in the most vulnerable situations. Yet, the pandemic also presented opportunities such as the release of children, wide scale application of alternatives to detention and innovative use of technology for justice service delivery. Indeed, the pandemic provides an opportunity to “rethink the role of justice for and with children, the starting point must be the preventive role that justice can play in ensuring that children’s rights are protected and their development supported”.

Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid also stated that “the majority of children’s challenging behavior can be resolved and addressed without the need of punitive intervention. Around the world there are children in contact with the justice system for offences that should not be regarded as crimes. The primary goal must be to avoid the contact of children with the justice system in the first place.” To that end, all forms of justice should be informed by children’s views and experiences and systematically include the meaningful participation. Echoing Mr. Van Keirsbilck ‘s remarks, Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid highlighted the need to formalise a UN resolution on the GSCDL to establish a follow-up mechanism of the Study, as such initiative will ensure that the results and recommendations of the GSCDL are mainstreamed, both at a national and international level.

Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid - UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children

Preventing children from coming into contact with the law: Youth perspective

As a young person who came in contact with the justice system in Sierra Leone, Mohamed Bangura identified elements necessary for the successful prevention of children coming into contact with the law. The first element is ensuring justice systems emphasise the legal instruments that protect children and youth which are already at our disposal, including local, national, regional and international laws, practices and treaties.

Mohamed Bangura - Youth Representative from Sierra Leone

The second element is the need to foster wider government investment in resources for child protection organisations to ensure children are able to receive appropriate support. Mohamed detailed the case of child victims of trafficking in Ethiopia who, due to a lack of resources and information to trace their families and send them back to their homes, the children were detained instead. Fostering data collection and protection through larger investment in local organisations that promote child protection is vital to ensure that when a child gets into the justice system, we ensure the identification of the child and trace back where he or she can get enough support. Finally, Mohamed stressed that due to the pandemic, most families are staying at home, so parents should be aware and have readily at their disposal all the resources and information of the crimes that could be committed against their children. Especially in the context of COVID-19 and the response to it, “let us feed the parents and guardians of children with more information and awareness of violence against children”. 

"Releasing children is not enough: it needs to be done is a smart, planned and sustainable way, for the successful reintegration of these children".

Panellist Alexandra Souza Martins expressed the breakthrough which the UN GSCDL represented, as it addressed child deprivation of liberty in a comprehensive manner beyond the usual terrain of children in the administration of justice. Yet, she acknowledged the Study “was only the first step”, as further action is needed from states, CSOs and communities to end child deprivation of liberty. The UN Inter-agency taskforce for the UN GSCDL works to ensure coordinated action at the national and global level for the implementation of the recommendations of the Study, bringing together a broad range of UN entities which bring specialised expertise and knowledge in different areas related to children deprived of liberty. 

Alexandra Souza Martins - UNODC on behalf of UN Inter-agency task force for the UN GSCDL

Coordinated, efficient and cost-effective action is particularly important during the Covid-19 pandemic, as “the challenges during this exceptional crisis have been exacerbated in particular for children deprived of liberty”. States are facing a double crisis, a financial one and a public health crisis. “Releasing children from detention can be a key solution to overcome these two challenges. Releasing children is not enough: it needs to be done is a smart, planned and sustainable way, for the successful reintegration of these children”.

Solutions to Deprivation of Liberty, Integral Protection and Access to Justice for All Children

Watch the full event with all the interventions, including among others the experience of youth representative Mohamed, the statement by H.E. Ambassador Lansana Gberie, and the intervention of Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Benoit Van Keirsbilck.

“We call for a UN resolution that will ensure a follow-up mechanism is clearly set up for the future”

Benoit Van Keirsbilck emphasized the importance of the GSCDL findings and recommendations and the need for countries to implement it first at a national level to generate widespread political will and mainstream the Study’s recommendations. ensuring it is implemented. Such process begins with an assessment of each State of their own legislation and practice at the national level, and the subsequent adoption of a national plan of action that is tailor-made to the situation of the country, taking into account the six areas of the study where children are deprived of liberty. This plan of action should look at how to reduce the number of children deprived of liberty, while ensuring that it is done properly, and is based on the voices and views of children.

To continue the path towards the long-term reduction of the number of children deprived of liberty, the role of donors remains of the utmost importance to ensure there are real and effective alternatives on the ground, to continue research efforts and knowledge improvement, and to continue implementing prevention initiatives that ensure less children are sent to places where they will be deprived of liberty. Part of the capacity-building efforts can be reinforced with knowledge-sharing with other countries and regions, as “we can learn a lot from one country to another to try to implement positive change, and be of mutual support through sharing good practices”. He called for “global cooperation and coordination” to ensure the follow-up mechanism to the GSCDL is formalised in the form of a UN resolution that will “continue the momentum of the study”.

Benoit Van Keirsbilck - GSCDL Advisory Board and Member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child

“We need professionals that can distinguish between children in conflict with the law and children in contact with the law, especially victims”

There has been a striking upsurge in cases of child trafficking due to the circumstances generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Manaff Kemokai underlined that justice for children is guided by international instruments upholding the rights of the child, as well as principles like the best interest of the child, or the principle of non-discrimination. Yet, every case of children accessing justice has its own peculiarities. General standards are necessary to establish a clear roadmap for justice systems, yet the details and circumstances of each case, the specific needs of children and how we can address them, vary on a case-by-case basis. The panellist detailed cases in West Africa, an area with high child labour incidence, in which children are subjected to child labor and arrested with fishermen in the sea, yet they are not only not considered victims of child labor and trafficking, they are often criminalised under the law.

Since the problems are multidimensional, they will require a multidisciplinary approach: law enforcement, social welfare services, and community involvement are key in the fight against trafficking. “We need comprehensive laws with clear procedures and strong implementation institutions, and law enforcement officials and other professionals that can distinguish between children in conflict with the law and children in contact with the law, especially victims”. Even in situations where children are arrested together with other criminals, children should be seen as victims and should be exempted of prosecution and given the support that they need to be reintegrated and reunified with their families. And for that, systems were services are provided to children in their access to justice need to be “responsive, coordinated, well connected, monitoring and supervising”, he concluded.

Manaff Kemokai - President of DCI and Director of DCI-Sierra Leone

Q&A SECTION

During the Q&A, Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid raised numerous points on deprivation of liberty and fostered efforts of knowledge-sharing regarding good practices, and the way to tackle the impact of the pandemic on child deprivation of liberty and access to justice.

When asked about the obstacles to children being able to access to justice, and the most important child protection services and reintegration services, youth representative Mohamed expressed concern about untrained officials handling child-related issues, like military groups handling children who are migrating to another country. Governments and agencies should ensure that the authorities that handle child-related issues are properly trained, and always uphold the bests interest of the child. He also expressed the need to promote family and community-based solutions instead of government services provision, which tend to follow a one-size-fits all approach instead of implementing a case-by-case procedure.

Answering a question on identifying lessons learned in terms of child detention on national security grounds, Alexandra Souza Martins, representing UNODC as the Head of the UNODC Global Programme to End Violence against Children, shared the support provided by UNODC to children associated with armed groups, including those designated as terrorist groups, have included the development of guidance including the UNODC Roadmap on the Treatment of Children Associated with Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups, to adequately respond to the needs of Member States in protecting children from terrorism. Such initiatives have a strong focus on minimising the use of detention on the base of national security ground, and have raised awareness on the extent of the problem faced by children deprived of liberty for national security reasons, as also highlighted by the GSCDL. As Ms. Souza Martins stated “There is no need to choose between our security interests and child rights, these are two complementary objectives that should be pursued to achieve long-lasting peace”.

Ms. Souza Martins also stressed the need to protect children from the use of exceptional detention regimes, especially when national legislation allows for administrative detention on security grounds, by applying diversion measures and ensuring the reintegration of children into society. Children associated with armed groups are first and foremost victims of grave abuses and violations of human rights, and should be treated and considered as such. Their recovery and reintegration should be the priority for all, and those who recruit children need to be held accountable. Where the child protection system fails, the risk of children failing prey to these groups increases dramatically, this is not only a crime problem, this is first and foremost a developmental issue. This is why many states have shown how to use handover protocols and investment in strong child protection system can work.

Panellists of the webinar

In regard to how the UN CRC can contribute to the realisation of SDG16 from a child rights perspective, Benoit Van Keirsbilck detailed numerous ways in which the Committee on the Rights of the Child addresses access to justice and deprivation of liberty, which include inquiries into countries where there are grave violations of human rights, General Comments, the reporting process of the CRC, the Day of General Discussion, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure (OPIC). The latter instrument allows the possibility for children to bring their case to the Committee, yet numerous pre-conditions need to be fulfilled in advance, such as the exhaustion of domestic remedies, a condition that requires a national justice system that is child-friendly, effective and accessible for all children, especially the most vulnerable. 

Addressing the topic of creating a holistic approach to protection and access to justice, in particular for girl survivors of sexual violence, Manaff Kemokai explained that in Sierra Leone, legislative developments resulted in removing the protection of children under the Child Rights Act by lowering the age of criminal responsibility below 14. This has resulted in young children being charged with sexual offences, thus increasing the incarceration rates of young children. To ensure access to justice and protection of survivors, it is important to have a system that guarantees effective case management and is guided by effective safeguarding. That way, countries will be able to mobilise professionals and service providers with clear procedures, to identify and respond to the needs of children survivors of sexual violence, including legal needs, protection needs or medical and psychosocial support. These procedures should not be ad hoc, they need to be coordinated, high-quality, provided by professionals and institutions who understand what safeguarding is and uphold the no harm principle.

For more information, please follow the NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty

About the participants:

H.E. Ambassador Lansana Gberie

H.E. Ambassador Lansana Gberie

Dr. Lansana Gberie was appointed Sierra Leone's Ambassador to Switzerland and the Permanent Representative to the UN and other International Organisations in Geneva in July 2018. H.E. Ambassador Lansana Gberie has over 20 years of experience as an international relations specialist, including six years as a United Nations official. After a stint at the Security Council Report in New York, he was appointed Finance Expert and Coordinator of the UN Panel of Experts on Liberia in January 2013 by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

Mohamed Bangura

Mohamed Bangura

Mohamed is a youth activist working in Sierra Leone

Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid

Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid

She was a member of the Moroccan National Council on Human Rights and founder of the non-governmental organisation Bayti. From 2008 to 2014, she served as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. Dr. M’jid has vast experience in the development of national policies on the protection of the child, and has worked with several governments, non-governmental and inter-governmental organisations.

Dr. Alexandra Martins

Dr. Alexandra Martins

She is the Head of the UNODC Global Programme to End Violence against Children at the UNODC Headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Her work includes the development of international laws and policies and the provision of technical assistance to countries worldwide regarding prevention and responses to violence against children, including the treatment of children in contact with the justice system. Since 2015, she has been working on providing guidance to countries on how to protect children from the threats associated with terrorism and violent extremism.

Benoit Van Keirsbilck

Benoit Van Keirsbilck

Founder and director of Defence for Children International – Belgium, Benoit Van Keirsbilck has worked on issues relating to child justice as well as deprivation of liberty leading him to actively work towards the realisation of the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of their Liberty becoming part of its Advisory Board. In 2021, he was appointed as member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Abdul Manaff Kemokai

Abdul Manaff Kemokai

Executive Director of Defence for Children International – Sierra Leone, Abdul Manaff Kemokai received the International Child 10 Award for his work and dedication to improve the situation of children in Sierra Leone. Abdul Manaff Kemokai was also elected as current President of Defence for Children International Movement.

Screenshot 2021-04-28 110122_auto_x2

Cambodian National Launch of the UN Global Study: A Major Step in Cambodia’s Journey to Ending Deprivation of Liberty

On April 22, the online National Launch of the UN Global Study in Cambodia took place. Organized by the joint efforts of nine NGOs, including the Child Rights Coalition of Cambodia and Terre des Hommes (both members of the NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty) and the Global Campus of Human Rights, the more than 200 participants around the world had the opportunity to hear about the main findings of the UN Global Study from Prof. Manfred Nowak, who underscored the relevance of the Study and the need to promptly implement its recommendations. Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, emphasized the need to reduce the number of imprisoned children, given deprivation of liberty is one of the most harmful violations of children’s fundamental rights.

Of particular importance was the ample inclusion of the voices of children deprived of liberty, through Child and Youth-Led Networks, which presented a Joint Statement to the Cambodian government requesting meaningful changes in the field of child liberty deprivation. Moreover, several civil society organizations participated, including This Life Cambodia, Friends-International, Save the Children and UNICEF, which shared their experiences working in this field and presented the testimonies of children deprived of liberty. The event also included interventions from the current Secretary of State to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation H.E. Thou Sun, who responded to the joint statements of youth organizations and NGOs by making a renewing the commitment of the Cambodian government to implement the recommendations presented and continue fighting to uphold children’s rights.

“We should release children in order to give them their childhood back”.

“Childhood is a formative time in everyone’s life. Putting children behind bars and depriving them of their right to personal liberty impacts both their lives and society in general”, says Prof. Nowak. Similarly, Foroogh Foyouzat (UNICEF Representative in Cambodia) focused on the indelible effect liberty deprivation has on children by stating “Children around the globe suffer their rights violations when they are deprived of liberty: rights to development, participation, protection and survival”. In the same line, the Joint Statement on Children Deprived of Liberty by the Child and Youth-Led Networks pointed out the devastating impact deprivation of liberty has on children, including “long-term damage to the social, cognitive, and behavioral development of the child and mental health complications”. These testimonies only serve to highlight the vast extent of the problem currently suffered by at least 5,4 million children who are currently deprived of liberty in inherently harmful institutions. 

Long-Term Impact

As the UN Global Study mentions, “Deprivation of liberty is an inherently distressing, potentially traumatic experience”. During the event, this feeling was echoed by the remarks of Dr. Maalla M’jid, who highlighted that child deprivation of liberty “impacts their well-being and continues into adulthood; its negative consequences result in higher costs for society and states in the long term”. Indeed, one of the main problems which children formerly subjected to liberty deprivation have to face is the social rejection that ensues after their release. As Foroogh Foyouzat explained, “the adverse effects on the child do not take place just during their deprivation of liberty, but the lasting impact on their lives beyond that period, and the subsequent stigmatization which is hard to deal with”. 

This Life Cambodia provided the testimony of Sok, who narrates his past experience of being in prison as a child, and described “The long-term impact of being in prison was that I lost my opportunity to study. I had no skills, no job and no future. I lost my self-esteem and experienced depression.”. Se Chhin, from This Life Cambodia, also echoed similar feelings, stating “Prison can destroy a child’s future, cause them shame amongst friends and community and they will lose their change of receiving a proper education.” The Joint Statement on Children Deprived of Liberty by the Child and Youth-Led Networks also voiced the generalized concern amongst its members on the lasting impact of deprivation of liberty, “The stigma in schools and communities can lead to isolation and fear of interacting with others, which intensifies the child’s inability to easily and effectively reintegrate into society. Children convey that they face emotional instability, and that the lost opportunities for education and employment have a personal consequence and a negative impact on both their own and their family’s financial situations.”

Children living in prisons with their primary caregivers.

In Cambodia, the factors influencing whether a convicted mother decides to bring their children intro prison include, according to Se Chhin, “access to legal advice, social norms (and subsequent discrimination they and their children might experience), access to a trusted support network, and the belief that a child may have more opportunities if they do not stay in prison (e.g., education)”. As Prof. Nowak recalled “when mothers are imprisoned, there is often no other person that can take care of the child, these children end up growing up in prisons with their primary caregivers. Judges should take this into account and think whether there are other alternatives to prevent this. If there is no alternative, then we need well-established child-parent units in prisons.”. On this matter, This Life Cambodia recommended to “provide timely and accurate childcare information to mothers sentenced to prison, implement further specialized training for law enforcement staff to understand the specific needs of children accompanying their mothers to prison, establish a comprehensive case management at the sentencing stage, and increase NGO support to children imprisoned with their primary caregivers and their families.

National Launch of the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty in Cambodia

Watch the full event with all the interventions, the various experiences of NGOs, the statements made by Dr. Maalla M’jid and H.E. Thou Sun, and the intervention of Independent Expert for the UN Global Study Prof. Manfred Nowak.

Situation in Cambodia

According to Leang Lo from Save the Children, some of the factors leading to placing children in institutions remain poverty or lack of money, family illness or death, child abandonment and migration. However, it is a reality in Cambodia that “The majority of child convictions are for non-violent offences, mostly drug use, drug trafficking and theft. In 64% of cases, children said their drug use had led them to commit crimes.”, said Se Chhin, from This Life Cambodia. In line with Prof. Nowak’s remarks on the need to “decriminalise behaviour of children and shorten the length of detention by applying non-custodial solutions, family-type environments”, Chhin recalls that such measures are largely supported by the Cambodian community, as their studies showed that “58% of community members thought that prison was bad for children and only 13% thought that children who commit non-violent crimes should be sent to prison. The majority thought that education or vocational training would be the best alternative to prison for children. They need education and rehabilitation, not deprivation of liberty.”. 

Juvenile Justice Reform (2017)

In 2017, Cambodia adopted the Juvenile Justice Law, which Foroogh Foyouzat described as “a significant step forward in reducing the unnecessary placement of children in institutions and overall trying to improve the justice system for children”. The Juvenile Justice Law is a comprehensive piece of legislation which is characterized by the provision of various diversion measures. It is considered as the foundation to reduce the number of minors in conflict with the law by considering detention (both before and/or after conviction) only as a last resort option for children. 

The problem, however, lies in the lack of full implementation of the law, “particularly with the provisions that do away from custodial measures and apply diversion whenever possible in the criminal procedure”, as Foyouzat mentioned. Indeed, H.E. Thou Sun admitted “relevant ministries in Cambodia have been struggling to address and deal with the issue of children deprived of liberty, especially regarding children in conflict with the law”. The reality in the country is that there is “an increasing number of children imprisoned, almost threefold since the law was created, mainly due to the use of alcohol and drugs by minors in Cambodia. (…) During the same years, the government of Cambodia started an anti-narcotic campaign, which has increased the number of people in prison.”, H.E. Thou Sun continued.

COVID-19 

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Maalla M’jid mentioned the decision by numerous countries to “release children who are deprived of Liberty during the pandemic for public health reasons.”. She argued that “if states were willing to release children deprived Liberty under these circumstances, why were they deprived of Liberty to begin with”. Similarly, Foroogh Foyouzat advocated for non-custodial options, release on bail or pardons, as alternatives to protect children deprived of liberty in a context of surging COVID-19 cases in Cambodia. “Inside prisons and instititutions”, she said, “particularly when they are crowded as they often are, social distancing becomes very difficult (…). Being in such crowded places children at a high risk.”. Such poor health conditions that children deprived of liberty are exposed to on a daily basis was confirmed by This Life Cambodia’s testament of Sok, who recalled that “there were about 20 prisoners in the cell”.

Promising Practices and Recommendations

Acknowledging there is still need of additional work, the various panelists applauded Cambodia’s efforts to uphold child rights. Foroogh Foyouzat highlighted that “notable progress is being made by the Cambodian government”, and Child and Youth-Led Networks praised the elements that helped children deprived of liberty endure their difficult times, including “vocational traning programs, regular interactions with positive role models outside of the facilities, and routine contact with family and community members”. During the event, H.E. Thou Sou renewed the commitment of the Cambodian government to reduce the number of children deprived of liberty by accepting the joint statement and recommendations made by Child and Youth-Led Networks, and a draft proposal presented by several NGOs and led by UNICEF and the Global Campus of Human Rights. In particular, he announced the Cambodian National Council for Children has been tasked to liaise with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior to study the future implementation of both statements.

Dr. Maalla M’jid commended Cambodia for becoming a path-finding country within the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, and for including children participation in decision-making processes (pre-session consultations, sharing of personal stories and their participation in the National Launch event). However, she also acknowledged the important work that still needs to be done, mainly in the field of “drastically reducing the number of children deprived of liberty, ensuring that detention is only used as a matter of last resort, and promoting alternatives to deprivation of liberty”.

Prof. Nowak explained the urgent need to implement “a very comprehensive policy of deinstitutionalization, as non-custodial solutions are always available and much better for children”. The need to establish effective child justice system was also echoed by Sok, who stated “The government should use other methods besides sending children to prison. Then they would still have a chance to go to school and feel the warmth and support of their families. In prison, children have no chance to get education and their mental health can be strongly affected.”

Se Chinn also promoted the use of non-custodial sentencing options whenever possible, given it has “direct positive results in the short and long term by reducing the number of imprisoned children and improving the climate within institutions, which serves in the best interests of children”. In the same line, Prof. Nowak, proposed to increase the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years (120 States still establish minimum age below 14 years, the minimum established by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child), shortening the length of child detention, and to implement especialized training of judges, police officers and prosecutors to get children “out of the child out of criminal justice system and into the child welfare system”.

The Joint Statement on Children Deprived of Liberty also advocated for the use of “diversion and alternative measures to detention for children in conflict with the law”, the promotion of child participation, and the improvement of living conditions and opportunities available for children deprived of liberty, with an emphasis on fostering family reunification and children with their families.

A step towards the end of invisibility

Despite the commendable steps taken by Cambodia in its journey towards ending child deprivation of liberty, there is still much work that needs to be done. In that way, the key recommendations of the Global Study present a very clear pathway in order to make further progress in protecting and promoting children’s rights. However, a meaningful implementation of the Global Study recommendations requires a collective effort from civil society, governments, UN agencies and other relevant stakeholders, as well as the ample participation and commitment of children and young people themselves. For that reason, events like the Cambodian National Launch of the UN Global Study are incredibly vital to “end the invisibility of child deprivation of liberty and help children overcome their stigmatization and social exclusion”, concluded Dr. Maalla M’jid.

For more information please follow the NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty

Capture

MENA Regional Workshop on Children Deprived of Liberty: first steps to implement the recommendations of the Global Study in the region

By Defence for Children – Palestine

DCI Middle East and North Africa Regional Office (DCI-MENA) held a workshop  on December 28th to discuss the recommendations regarding the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty. Around 40 stakeholders joined the MENA regional workshop; representing a large number of DCI MENA Sections, the child justice sector in Arab countries, civil society institutions and international organisations, in addition to the participation of Benoit Van Keirsbilck, incoming member of the CRC Committee.

The workshop’s pragmatic approach set the stage for a discussion which not only focused on exchanging views on the Global Study recommendations but also putting forward mechanisms to include these recommendations in national plans and policies as well as to consider the reality of children in conflict with the law in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, three case studies from Tunisia, Palestine and Jordan were presented to highlight the work that has been done during the pandemic for children in conflict with the law.

The participants approved a number of recommendations at the regional level, following a review of some of the Arab experiences in protecting the rights of children in conflict with the law amidst the pandemic.

Workshop recommendations on how to include the Global Study recommendations in national plans and policies

〉 Conduct a comprehensive and specialised review of the work of centres and institutions for children with disabilities in light of international standards of alternative care and the rights of children with disabilities.

〉  Develop the work of protection and alternative care centres for children, including institutions for unaccompanied children, in terms of services provided, complaints mechanisms, monitoring systems, and periodic review of the placement conditions. 

〉  Governmental and non-governmental institutions to enhance parenting care and prevent family separation in order to promote alternatives to placement.

Promote the preventive aspect of protection from violence.

〉 Develop and improve the reintegration of children into their communities and families.

〉 Promote child participation and respect children’s views, based on their maturity and age, when making the decision to place them in protection centres or institutions in accordance with informed practical guidelines.

〉 Find alternatives to protection institutions and institutions for children with disabilities by providing the necessary support to families, both psychologically and socially, or economically empowering them to take care of their children.

〉  Civil society institutions to train children and those working with children on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on individual complaints and communications procedures.

  Form committees from the child justice parties and civil society institutions, develop a plan to incorporate the recommendations of the Study in the national plans, and hold a meeting after three months to discuss the plans and priorities adopted at the national level.

Recommendations to protect children in conflict with the law amidst the Covid-19 pandemic

〉  Adopt alternatives to detention and reduce the number of children in places of detention.

〉  Seek social alternatives such as mediation so that minors will not spend long periods of time in the justice system.

〉  Approve procedures that reduce the period of litigation in juvenile cases by setting a time period for adjudicating cases.

〉  Hold sessions remotely while ensuring the juvenile’s right to obtain legal advice and assistance, and provide the legislative environment for that after obtaining official approval and ensuring the due process of fair trial guarantees.

〉  Provide facilities to hold sessions in juvenile care homes to spare minors the trouble of moving; mostly in countries where there are no specialised juvenile courts or means of transportation to separate them from adults during the trial.

〉  Adopt protection measures for detained children by avoiding overcrowding in places of detention.

〉  Maintain family contact, remotely, during the pandemic via social media, as well as in-person communication in cases requiring long periods of detention, such as murder cases.

〉  Establish a health protocol for places of detention to maintain communication between children and their families.

〉  Establish a mechanism for children to obtain fair trial guarantees, without prejudice to their rights to expeditious determination, contact lawyer during detention, and communicate with civil society institutions authorised to conduct supervisory visits within clear safety measures.

〉 Secure children’s right to obtain health information about disease prevention, just as children outside places of detention, and provide materials that allow them to protect themselves and prevent disease.

〉 Provide quarantine places for newly admitted children until the results come out.

Ensure the right of children to receive vaccines once they are made available.

Capture

“UN Study on children deprived of their liberty makes us feel uncomfortable. As it should do.”

By Defence for Children – The Netherlands

On December 18th, before an audience of 85 representatives of children’s rights organizations, academics, local and national governments, judiciary and international organizations, MPs Lisa Westerveld (GroenLinks), Martin Wörsdörfer (VVD), Niels van den Berge (GroenLinks) and Marijke van Beukering – Huijbregts (D66) discussed online the recommendations of the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty (GSCDL). During the launch UN Representatives and expert by experience Bodine gave their contributions. UN expert professor Manfred Nowak, stressed that 7 million children are deprived of their liberty every year worldwide. In the Netherlands, too, children are detained in police cells, in detention centers for children in conflict with the law, immigration detention or are deprived of their liberty in secured residential youth care. The MPs responded to the recommendations from the UN Study for the Netherlands. They have committed themselves to prevent the deprivation of liberty of children now and in the next cabinet term. Westerveld went a step further and no longer wants closed institutions for children in five years’ time.

Deprived of childhood

“During your childhood you develop your personality, your social emotional relationships and your talents. For this reason, children should grow up in a family setting surrounded by love, safety and security,” says Nowak. “Placing children in a closed setting is counterproductive, is costly, not good for their health and development and it deprives them of the right to personal freedom. It leaves a deep wound in the lives of these children and in society.” The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort, only when necessary, for the shortest possible time and in child-friendly conditions. Nevertheless, 7 million children worldwide are deprived of their liberty every year. This is a traumatic experience for children, as Bodine explains from her own experience, and this is also evident from the contributions of 274 children from 22 countries who participated in the UN Study. 

Experience with living in secured care

“These are children, not clients or numbers, approach them as if they were your own children,” says Bodine, now 29, who as a pregnant 16-year-old spent a total of 18 months in secured youth care. After the birth of her daughter she went to another institution, more open, although the doors were often locked. She did not receive any support during her time in secured youth care. She was even told she was not allowed to keep her child. “Being deprived of my liberty, prevented me from having access to good education. This has had a major impact on my life and I still carry this with me today.” Bodine continues, “not having a purpose nor perspective felt like my life came to an end.” In handing over the UN Study to MP Lisa Westerveld (GroenLinks), she calls on her and the government to stop locking up children and to provide children with education, support and guidance for the problems that children and their families face. 

“No more closed institutions in five year’s time”

Westerveld regretfully recognizes Bodine’s story of conversations with children who are now in closed institutions. “I prefer to see that in five years’ time there will be no more closed institutions for children,” says Westerveld. “When they are still there, it should feel like a second home. Investments must be made in guidance and education. And it’s important to support families. In the event of domestic violence, for example, investments should be made in keeping the family together.” Nowak adds: “it is up to society and not up to the children, but it is often felt that way.” Westerveld continues: “children are not difficult, but they live in difficult circumstances.” Bodine, who now works as an experience expert in closed institutions, confirms: “I recently saw a 12-year-old girl who imitated the older girls with make-up, but eventually she went to sleep with a stuffed animal. It shouldn’t be like that. What if this girl would be your own child? That’s why I say: stop locking up children.” 

 Presentation UN Global Study

 Got inspired? Watch the video with all the   presentations, the story of expert Bodine and the   conversations about the implementation of the   recommendations of the UN Study with UN Expert   Prof. Manfred Nowak and members of parliament

Follow-up UN Study

The Global Campus of Human Rights plays an important role in the implementation of the UN Study and supporting national action plans, says program manager Manu Krishan. “Austria is now exploring alternatives to secured placements, for example. In South Africa, a pilot has been launched providing opportunities for young people in secured care. And in East Europa and Central Asia we are working on the de-institutionalisation of children with disabilities.” “The Netherlands has to prioritize reducing the amount of children in secured care and has to take concrete steps towards this goal” says Ton Liefaard, endowed professor of children’s rights at Leiden University. “The UN Study makes us feel uncomfortable. Like it should do. The UN Study is relevant for the Kingdom of the Netherlands and not only for foreign countries. Not being able to leave an open or closed institution freely, has an impact on children. Reintegration of young people who have been deprived of their liberty is ‘costly’ for society, therefore investments must be made in prevention, supporting families for example. Locking up children is still used as a solution. This is very worrisome.” Liefaard calls for the whole system to be reconsidered and to come up with creative solutions: “placing children in closed institutions is not the same as taking care of children.”

Situation in the Netherlands

Eva Huls, in-house lawyer at Defence for Children continues: “Each year in the Netherlands thousands of children are deprived of their liberty. In 2019, for example, there were 1.680 placements in secured youth care. In addition, children are affected by the long waiting lists and the financial consequences of the decentralization. In 2019, in nearly 20.000 cases of children in conflict with the law, the child suspects were detained in a police cell. The vast majority of these children have not committed  a serious  crime  and/or have been arrested for the first time. Furthermore, in 2019 a total of 30 unaccompanied children and 170 children in families were placed in immigration detention. On average unaccompanied children have to stay there longer than children in families and often in poor conditions, although there are alternatives as we can see in other countries. Defence for Children urges the government to reduce the number of children in secured care or detention and address the root causes to prevent deprivation of liberty. Register more and better and prohibit the detention of children for purely migration related reasons. If deprivation of liberty cannot be prevented, then apply child-friendly conditions. But above all: create alternatives and invest in families.”

Small-scale care facilities

The figures presented by Huls makes Wörsdörfer (VVD) feel uncomfortable. “Investments must be made in creating alternatives, such as ‘family type settings’. The UN Study can certainly help us with this. And I support the call to register more and better.”  Van den Berge(GroenLinks): “Secured youth care and detention of children in conflict with the law should be small-scale and placement should be avoided as much as possible. We do agree on that in parliament. I am particularly concerned about children in immigration detention: there is no consensus on this in parliament.”  Nowak finds this very worrisome, Ireland has for example abolished immigration detention: “they do not run away, because they depend on the care that is being offered to them.” Van Beukering – Huijbregts (D66):  “the large numbers are also caused by the fact that the ‘flow’ of children coming in and children leaving care facilities is not in order. More small-scale facilities have to be built. Multiple domains have to be involved. Not only representatives of youth policy, but representatives of e.g. housing and education policy as well.”

Concrete directions to post-election coalition formation

“The deprivation of liberty of children is one of the most overlooked violations of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” nowak says. Liefaard adds that the youth mental health care system needs to be included in this discussion as well, because children are often confronted with these different systems. Wörsdörfer agrees: “the current pilots in the youth mental health care system should be applied throughout the Netherlands, and the adult mental health care system should be included as well.” Van den Berge: “we need concrete directions, including in the context of coalition-building after the elections.”  Van Beukering – Huijbregts: “due to the decentralization municipalities are responsible for facilitating youth care. However, address at a national level the need for different type of treatment close to home and the need for prevention and reintegration.” Nowak offers to support the MPs after the elections, this is wholeheartedly accepted. “The situation in the Netherlands must improve, based on Bodine’s experience, the recommendations and the observations of the UN study and contributions today. Let’s focus on what Westerveld said earlier and make sure that in five years’ time we have abolished closed institutions,” stresses Carrie van de Kroon, host of the Global Study event.

 

Defence for Children International and Human Rights Watch chair the NGO panel, which is affiliated with 170 organisations, and they are now committed to implementing the recommendations of the UN Study. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to send us an e-mail: info@defenceforchildren.nl

Learn more 

For more information please follow the NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty

Final version Flyer PNG

Online event underscores COVID19’s impact on children deprived of liberty

On 16 July 2020, Defence for Children International (DCI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) hosted a webinar on COVID19’s impact on children deprived of liberty, which was attended by more than 250 participants from different countries. This online event highlighted the key findings of the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty (GSCDL) in the context of COVID19 and was moderated by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children, Najat Maalla M’jid. It was co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Austria to the UN Geneva and the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the UN New York and featured the participation of the UN inter-agency Task Force for the GSCDL.

From the Permanent Mission of Austria to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Robert Müller praised the timely realisation of the webinar and regretted that children are still being deprived of liberty for the different situations outlined in the GSCDL. In his words “when children are deprived of their liberty, in the administration of justice, in institutions or for migration related reasons, they are particularly vulnerable to be victims of violence and other grave human rights violations. COVID19 has underlined the need to strengthen alternatives to detention and alternatives to the justice system in general. The findings of the GSCDL have shed light on the phenomenon by providing reliable data on the scale of this problem.”

Ambassador Müller’s opening remarks were followed by those of Ambassador Luis Bermudez from the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the UN in New York, who noted that COVID19 represents an opportunity for releasing children deprived of liberty. For him, “due to the GSCDL, Governments are in better conditions to address COVID19 in child detention facilities”. In this sense, he highlighted that “placing children in centres or in institutions where they are deprived of liberty may lead to irreversible negative impacts on them and usually collides with the guiding principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Before giving the floor to other panellists, Najat Maalla M’jid noted the importance of having a follow up of the GSCDL. The Special Representative remarked that COVID19 adversely and disproportionally impacts children deprived of liberty and that it provides us with an opportunity to bring about sustainable long-term changes, such as using all alternatives to detention and institutionalisation. Particularly, she wondered: “if it is safe to release children now (in the context of COVID19), why were they detained in the first place?”

From UNICEF’s Child Protection Programme Division Cornelius Williams, welcomed the fact that some States have released children in the context of COVID19. He alluded to the recently produced UNICEF’s Global Guidance of COVID19 and Children Deprived of Liberty and referred to the “protests of the movement ‘black lives matter’ in the US, which has triggered response to the universal scourge of racism and discrimination.” For him, “these events provoke the need to redouble our efforts to root out racial discrimination and all forms of discrimination from the very system meant to protect children.”  

Furthermore, from the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict, Anne Schintgen expressed her concern about the often extremely poor and inadequate hygiene conditions of detention centres. With respect to the specific issue of children deprived of liberty in the context of armed conflict, she noted: “our office is reporting and monitoring the deprivation of liberty of children for their actual or alleged association with conflict parties. While some children are apprehended under military operations, others are detained simply because they appear to be of fighting age, or they come from communities perceived to be sympathetic to opposition forces.” In any case, she added, recovery and rehabilitation must always follow the release of children

Alexandra Souza Martins, who spoke on behalf of the UNODC’s Global Programme on Violence against Children, stressed that the challenges linked to the treatment of children deprived of liberty have exacerbated during COVID19. For her, “the majority of children in detention should not be there in the first place. Amongst them are children with mental substance abuse problems and children who have committed minor offences. More recently, she highlighted, we have witnessed a worrying trend of detaining children for national security reasons, such as their alleged association with terrorists and the so-called violent extremist groups”.

As Member of UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and Chair of the UN Global Study Advisory Board, Prof. Ann Skelton emphasised that the mental health of children deprived of liberty is equally as important as their physical health. With respect to COVID19, she focused on institutionalised children and deplored that some States do not know the number of children in institutions. “To have this information is crucial in the context of a pandemic” she said. For her, States “need to be prepared for emergencies and think about how to place children in safety and in foster care during crisis.” In this sense, Ann Skelton said that given the context of COVID19 it “is a good moment to push States towards deinstitutionalisation.” 

From the perspective of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Carina Ferreira-Borges said that “all the people that have been deprived of liberty, including children, have been part of a population that has been left behind.” Dr. Ferreira-Borges added that children deprived of liberty “have very poor health status, even poorer than their peersin the community.” She also noted that “detention can cause or exacerbate already existing physical and mental health issues.” She also referred to WHO’s interim guidelines on how To respond to COVID19 situations in prisons whilst also calling on States to release more children in order to reduce overcrowding, which has a positive impact in preventing the spread of the virus.

Felipe González Morales, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, focused on the detention of migrant children, which is one of the most important issues of his mandate. While he applauded that “in a number of countries migrant children are being released and alternatives of detention are put in place for them during the pandemic”, he deplored that “in other countries there has even been an increase in the number of migrant children deprived of liberty.” Afterwards, Felipe González informed that the main theme of his next UN General Assembly report will be immigration detention of children, which, in his words, “is contrary to international law”

 as has been reiterated by “various human rights mechanisms at the international and at the regional level.” Finally, he called upon States to ensure that, regardless of COVID19, civil society organisations have access to detention centres to monitor the situation of migrants. 

Jo Becker, Advocacy Director of the Children’s Rights division of Human Rights Watch (HRW), and Co-Chair together with Defence for Children International (DCI) of the NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty, noted that “even before the pandemic, the GSCDL revealed that millions of children are being deprived of their liberty at great cost to their health and their future”. Particularly, she referred to a recent HRW report showing that, while at least 80 countries have released adult detainees for the COVID19 pandemic, only around 20 have taken concrete measures to release children. Calling for more urgent actions to release children in the context of the pandemic, Jo Becker importantly noted that “studies have showed that the vast majority of these children could be released without a risk being imposed on society.” Finally, she stressed that social distancing measures have forced some children into solitary confinement, which, according to experts, “should never be used for children, and can even constitute torture”.

The last panellist intervening in the webinar was Cedric Foussard, Advocacy and Global Learning Advisor at Terre des Hommes (TdH), which is also a Member of the NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty. He noted that “TdH has worked on a global campaign for accelerating the release of children from detention in the context of COVID19” and has produced a Policy and Practice Brief on this issue, “which captures the initial phases of how justice systems are reacting to COVID19 with a specific focus on children in conflict with the law.” Cedric Foussard applauded the efforts of civil society and academia in involving children in the creation of the child-friendly version of the GSCDL. He stressed that the follow up of the GSCDL should continue to consider child participation and involve children in its future implementation.

Finally, Professor Manfred Nowak, Independent Expert and lead-author of the GSCDL, intervened from the floor to welcome the efforts made by the UN Task Force for appropriately following up the GSCDL. He also stressed the importance of releasing “those children that we know that are deprived of liberty in violation of international law,” such as those detained for migration-related reasons and for minor offences. 

For more information please follow the NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty. 

EU Parliament called on to reduce the number of children deprived of liberty

Brussels, 14 July 2020

An online expert roundtable was held to present the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty to the European Parliament. This Webinar was organised by Defence for Children International (DCI) – Belgium together with Saskia Bricmont, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and co-chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on the Rights of the Child.

More than 80 participants joined this Webinar moderated by Saskia Bricmont, who underlined the importance of the UN Global Study in collecting data and making recommendations about children deprived of liberty and presented the different dimensions in which children are deprived of liberty.

 “Children deprived of liberty remain an invisible and forgotten group in society”, said Saskia Bricmont, who also expressed her commitment to moving forward on this issue and stated: “we need to recognise that detention is never in the best interest of children and forbid it in any context.”

Highlighting the importance of the issues raised by the UN Global Study, Fabienne Keller MEP, expressed her concern about the number of unaccompanied minors who applied for asylum in the European Union (EU) last year, amounting to more than 17 000. All these children are at high risk of suffering human rights violations.

The UN Global Study was presented by Prof. Manfred Nowak, Independent Expert appointed by the UN General Assembly to lead the Study, who remarked that “child deprivation of liberty is a form of structural violence”. Prof. Nowak outlined the different situations in which children are being deprived of liberty around the world referring to the conservative numbers analysed by the Study. Concerning the specific issue of migration, he stressed that child detention for migration-related reasons can never constitute a measure of last resort as provided by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child since it is never in the best interests of the child and non-custodial solutions are always available. Finally, Prof. Nowak noted that the COVID19 pandemic represented a very good opportunity for implementing the Study’s recommendations, including the release of children deprived of liberty in different contexts.

Child deprivation of liberty is a form of structural violence

In the same vein, Jo Becker, Advocacy Director of the Children’s Rights division at Human Rights Watch (HRW), informed that a recent HRW report highlighted that while 79 States have released detained persons in the context of COVID19, only 20 have taken specific actions to release children. More worryingly, she noted that “even when authorities try to protect children in detention from the virus, they often create other problems. For example, in some facilities children are now confined for 23 or more hours a day, which amounts to solitary confinement.”  

During the Q&A, Jo Becker addressed the question on the efforts of the EU to repatriate children detained in Syria, saying that “thousands of children from foreign countries remain detained in camps in northeast Syria for alleged association with ISIS, many of whom are under the age of six years old. We are very concerned that most countries are not doing nearly enough to bring children home with their families. We can see better measures taken by other non-European states.”

Benoit Van Keirsbilck, the Director of DCI-Belgium, which co-chairs the NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty, recalled the fact that Belgium had halted the practice of detaining children between 2008 and 2018 and highlighted the work of civil society organisations in making this possible. The detention of migrant children in 2018 represents a fallback for Belgium, which shows that progress in this area is not definitive so far. 

About the UN Global Study, he insisted that “appropriate follow up of its recommendations is very much needed both at the national and international levels and States need to implement national plans of action for doing so.” Importantly, Benoit Van Keirsbilck emphasised the need to continue counting the number of children who are deprived of liberty in Europe.

 

“Appropriate follow up of the Study’s recommendations is very much needed at the national and international levels”

Watch the event here!

For more information please follow the social networks of the NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty.

DSC_0596

Calls to stop depriving children of their liberty amid celebrations of 30 years of child rights

The calls to stop depriving children of their liberty have come during the launch of the full UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty in Geneva on 19 November from the UN Independent Expert, Prof Manfred Nowak, academia, and civil society including the NGO panel of 170 organisations that have been supporting the study since 2014 co-chaired by Defence for Children International and Human Rights Watch. Whilst on 8 October one month earlier, the report on the Global Study summarising the conclusions and recommendations was presented by the Independent Expert to the 3rd Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.

As we celebrate 30 years of the UN Convention on the rights of the child for all the achievements that have been made, it is also time to reflect on a particular category of children that are being systematically left behind and forgotten by the international community which is children deprived of their liberty within prisons, police custody, immigration detention, institutions and other places of deprivation of liberty.

DSC_0645

Our societies seem to have forgotten one very simple truth: Children should not be detained, because deprivation of liberty means deprivation of rights, agency, visibility, opportunities and love.” Prof. Manfred Nowak

The study finds that as a minimum 1,5 million children per year are detained around the world according to the definition adopted by the study, however Prof. Manfred Nowak estimates that up to 7 million children per year are effectively detained against their best interests and in contradiction to international standards including the provisions of the Convention on the rights of the child, ratified by all States except one, whereby children should be detained only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period meaning that alternatives and family based care should always be sought out.

The Global Study in numbers 

  • At least 410,000 children are held every year in jails and prisons, where violence is “endemic.” Many are charged with “status offenses” that are not criminal offenses for adults, including truancy, disobedience, and underage drinking; 
  • Although UN experts have concluded that detention of children for migration-related reasons can never be in the best interest of a child, at least 330,000 children in 77 countries are held in immigration detention each year;
  • While between 430,000 and 680,000 children have been placed by judicial authorities in institutions that meet the legal definition of deprivation of liberty, the total number of children in institutions is estimated at 3.5 to 5.5 million.
  • Children with disabilities are significantly overrepresented in detention in the context of administration of justice and institutions.
  • The number of children detained in the context of armed conflict and national security has increased sharply, driven by aggressive counter-terrorism measures that can include detention and prosecution of children for online activity, including posts to Facebook and Twitter.

We need to give visibility to the Global Study, show it everywhere it can be shown, disseminate the recommendations, and talk about it so as nobody can say ‘we did not know how we treat children’”, said Benoit Van Keirsbilck, director of DCI Belgium at the Geneva launch of the Global Study, “we have been harming children for many years and this has to stop.”

States who have the ultimate responsibility to care and ensure the respect of the rights and dignity of children, also have the means to make the necessary changes to avoid detention of children which is recognised as a form of structural violence. Not only is this part of their international obligations but it is also part of their pledges towards the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, namely target 16.2 dedicated to the elimination of violence against children.

The NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty composed of over 170 NGOs will now continue and intensify efforts against the deprivation of liberty of children and in favour of alternative measures and good practices included in the different chapters of the Global Study.

©Juvenile Justice Advocates International (5)

The United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty: Deprivation of Liberty is Deprivation of Childhood #CRC30

 

Our societies seem to have forgotten one very simple truth: Children should not be detained, because deprivation of liberty means deprivation of rights, agency, visibility, opportunities and love.” – Manfred Nowak

 

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab

Download [698.19 KB]

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.

MOOC on Children Deprived of Liberty: Learning from the UN Global Study

Since to launch of the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, the Global Campus of Human Rights have developed a MOOC to learn more about the study.The MOOC is free and designed for participants around the word who are actively interested and engaged in children’s rights work and wish to deepen their knowledge about the protection of children deprived of liberty.

Sign up now! Course starts 18 November 2019!

Find out more here.

Loader Loading…
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab

Download [349.75 KB]

39th NGO Panel statement

SEPTEMBER 2019: Deprivation of Liberty at the UN Human Rights Council 42nd session

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s (HRC) 42nd session took place from 9th to 27th September, 2019 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Interactive dialogue with the Working Group on arbitrary detention

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention highlighted a series of recommendations with regard to the detention of children in the administration of justice such as always separating children from adults and putting into place child friendly justice systems.              

During this dialogue, a statement was delivered on behalf of the NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty by Defence for Children International (DCI) calling on States to support the Global Study and its recommendations, including specific mechanisms to continue data collection and to implement good practices on alternatives to detention.     

                                                

The Administration of Justice including Juvenile Justice

During the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council the question of the Administration of justice including juvenile justice was dealt with in the High Commissioner’s report on the subject as well as with the biennial resolution. The report demonstrates how overcrowding in prisons and detention facilities leads to violence, death and serious injury. This biennial resolution led by Austria was adopted by consensus. It was an important opportunity for child rights NGOs to advocate towards the better protection of children’s rights in the child justice system. The resolution calls on States to keep the different categories of prisoners separated, taking account of their sex, age, criminal records, the legal reason for their detention and the necessities of their treatment. Furthermore, the minimum age of criminal responsibility was increased to 14 years of age from 12 years of age in line with the General Comment 24.

It was highlighted during a side event on this issue that the topic of children of prisoners is difficult approach due to the lack of information, what is certain is that loss of contact is very common in families where a member is serving a life sentence.

 

Country specific situations

Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s Report on Yemen

The Chairperson of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts, Mr Kemal Jendoubi highlighted that children are particularly hit by the conflict with high rates of recruitment of child soldiers who are under the age of 15 and generally it was highlighted that a lot of civilians casualties are children due to restrictions of humanitarian aid, and the military use of hospitals. Four children were killed in the airstrike of the detention centre just days before the HRC.

Furthermore, during a side event on the situation in Yemen, Yemeni activists discussed the role of Yemeni woman in the fight against arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of woman through facts, experiences and local initiatives carried out on the field. Panellists provided the audience with a profile of the woman in detention and post-arrest, identifying the socio-psychological impact on woman and their families.

 

General Debate on Item 7 Palestine

A multitude of issues were raised during Item 7 such as the use of collective punishment, and arbitrary detention, including for children which was condemned by the delegations that took the floor.

 

Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s oral update on Ukraine                                                                                        

UNICEF highlighted that a high number of children are living in residential care with limited efforts to prevent family separation and the placement of children in closed institutions and is particularly concerned about the high number of children with disabilities in such institutions.

 

Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s oral update on Libya

Of particular concern is the conditions of detention in Libya without appropriate healthcare, indefinite arbitrary detention, torture, ill treatment, SEA, as well as trafficking and smuggling, migrants today are exposed further to the impacts of the conflicts. It is estimated that 3500 are help in centres in conflict zones. 1 in 5 are children.