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.

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