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.


“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:

Learn more 

For more information please follow the NGO Panel for the Global Study of Children Deprived of Liberty

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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 for the Global Study, 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 for the Global Study of 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 for the UN Global Study, 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 for the Global Study of Children Deprived of Liberty.


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.


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 for the Global Study 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


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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.

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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.

©Juvenile Justice Advocates International (1)

UN General Assembly report of the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty

The General Assembly report of the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty will be presented on 8 October, 2019 to the Third Committee on Social, Humanitarian & Cultural Issues. The report presents a summary of the findings of the Global Study that assess the situation of the magnitude of children deprived of liberty.




JUNE/JULY 2019: Deprivation of liberty at the UN Human Rights Council 41st session

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s (HRC) 41st session took place from 24 June to 12 July, 2019 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Oral update by Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights worldwide and on the activities of her office

The High Commissioner focused her opening remarks on a variety of human rights crises around the world, in particular on the plight of children. She expressed her concerns about the detention of the families of foreign suspected ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq where an estimated 29 000 children – mostly under 12 years of age – are being detained.

She condemned the killing of 37 men in Saudi Arabia, some of whom were children when the alleged crimes took place. She also expressed her concerns about the situation in Iran where children are continually being sentenced to death; two boys under 18 were sentenced to death and executed in April, and where a high number of child offenders are on death row awaiting execution.

Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, Alice Cruz

The Special Rapporteur affirmed that children affected by leprosy should not be forcibly separated, institutionalised and segregated in centres made for that effect. She also expressed concerns about children born to persons suffering from leprosy who are still forcibly removed from their parents at birth.

Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic, Marie-Thérèse Keita-Bocoum

The Independent Expert reaffirmed that specific attention must be paid to the situation of young persons who are particularly vulnerable to extremist discourses used by armed groups as new recruits. The programmes for the reintegration of young persons in certain provinces and the reduction of violence are positive initiatives and should be reproduced in other regions.

There is no juvenile justice system thus children are mixed with adults in prisons. The vast majority of children have no civil status or official documentation, and measures should be taken for these children to have access to school and healthcare and be considered as citizens, it should be a priority for the government.

Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially of women and children, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro

The Special Rapporteur focused on social inclusion of persons that have been trafficked, which is an obligation for States and includes the right to effective remedy, satisfaction, non-repetition, and the right to compensation. Civil society and faith-based organisations also play a crucial role in being on the frontline helping vulnerable migrants, IDPs and children in the process of social integration.

A statement was delivered on behalf of the NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty by Defence for Children International (DCI) that can be found here highlighting that as stated in Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, detention of children should only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. In response to the issue of detention of trafficked and migrant children brought up in our statement, the Special Rapporteur responded by saying that she advocates for the banning of detention of children in migratory circumstances, stating that “in addition to the ordeal that they have been through, detention is an element of deep traumatisation with long lasting consequences”.

Clustered Interactive Dialogue with Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, with the Chair Meskerem Geset Techane

The persistence of gender stereotypes perpetuates discrimination against women including when talking about deprivation of liberty. Stereotypes are often transcribed into law and women who fail to comply face sanctions and punishment to regulate and change their behaviour. Women are imprisoned when defending themselves from violence, imprisoned by domestic violence and kidnapping, forced marriage and sexual slavery.

Side-event for the Global Study: Count children to make them count – Filling the data gap

On Tuesday 25, June 2019, Defence for Children International (DCI) as co-convener of the NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty organised a side event moderated by Anna Tomasi (OHCHR), with opening remarks from H.E. Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger of Austria, H.E. Ambassador Geert Muylle of Belgium, and H.E. Ambassador Sek Wannamethee of Thailand, and interventions from Prof. Manfred Nowak Independent Expert for the Global Study, Prof. Ann Skelton Member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Karen Van Laethem President of the Belgium National Commission of the Rights of the Child, and Brianna Smith from Children of Prisoners Europe.

Prof. Manfred Nowak announced that the Global Study will be presented on 8 October to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly. In addition to the 30-page report for the UN General Assembly, a 500-page book will also be submitted. Prof. Nowak highlighted that they received 112 replies from 82 countries (half of them from Europe, 27 from Africa, 20 from Asia, 19 from North and Latin America, and 5 from Oceania).

It will be the first Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty with reliable statistical data on the number of children being detained. The speakers highlighted how crucial data is for children deprived of liberty to understand the scope of the issue and to respond effectively and appropriately, always respecting children’s rights. The focus now will be to ensure the follow-up and the implementation of the recommendations of the Global Study.

Watch the event here and here.