SEPTEMBER 2018: Deprivation of Liberty at the UN Human Rights Council 39th Session

The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council’s (HRC) 39th session took place from September 10 to 28, 2018 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Deprivation of liberty was an issue that the NGO Panel for the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty followed during the session, participating in the plenary sessions and side events, meetings with different stakeholders and conducting advocacy. Deprivation of liberty was discussed on these occasions:


UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Opening Session

The newly-appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, addressed the Council for the first time. She highlighted that separating and detaining families offers no long-term solutions to anyone – only more hostility, misery, suffering, and chaos. Several States also showed concern at the increase of migrant children being detained and families being separated.


Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

On September 12, 2018, during the Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mr. Seong-Phil Hong, Chair of the Group, noted that there was an increasing emergence of deprivation of liberty not only in prisons but also in migration centres and medical institutions, including of children. He presented the Working Group’s report on Consular assistance and diplomatic protection for persons deprived of liberty and the linkages between arbitrary detention and instances of torture and ill-treatment. This report includes, in its annex, the revised deliberation No. 5 on deprivation of liberty of migrants. As stated by Hong, this revision reflects changes in international law and jurisprudence during the last 20 years.

The International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE) delivered a statement on behalf of the NGO Panel for the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty thanking the Group for highlighting that the deprivation of liberty of asylum-seeking, refugee, stateless, and migrant children, including unaccompanied or separated children, is prohibited, and for clearly mentioning the need for alternatives to detention. The NGO Panel also called on States to support the Global Study by providing more quality, disaggregated data on children deprived of liberty and examples of alternatives to detention in their countries as well as by participating in the upcoming consultations and contributing with political and financial support.


Side Event with Professor Manfred Nowak

On September 10, during a side event organised by the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein and the All Survivors Project on “Hidden Victims: Sexual Violence against Men and Boys in Conflict.” Professor Manfred Nowak noted that boys are also victims of sexual violence when deprived of their liberty. He emphasized that this is an under-reported and taboo topic. According to international law, children should always be separated from adults, but the reality is that they are often detained with adults, and this can exacerbate the of sexual violence between men and boys. As the Independent Expert leading the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, he reminded the audience that the Global Study addresses different settings of deprivation of liberty, including in the context of armed conflict and for migration-related reasons.


Side Event: “Arbitrary detention in the Americas: The Cases of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Mexico”

On September 12, at a side event on arbitrary detention organised by the Mexican Commission of Human Rights, cases of people being arbitrarily detained, mostly journalists, politics and civil society members, was discussed. It was highlighted that this is contradictory to international and human rights law. Human Rights Watch reported that, according to their findings, among the people detained in Nicaragua during the demonstrations, 10 were children.


Side Event: “The Human Rights Situation and Changes of Peace in Yemen”

On September 19, at a side event organised by the Permanent Mission of Yemen on the human rights situation in the country, the Minister of Human Rights of Yemen said that the situation in the country is very concerning, with Yemenis suffering from all forms of human rights violations. Hundreds of people had been detained, most arbitrarily, and some in secret prisons, including children.

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