Children can be sentenced to death* in 14 countries by lethal injection, hanging, shooting or stoning. In some countries children as young as seven are sentenced to life imprisonment. And in at least 40 States, ‘justice’ systems allow for corporal punishment of children including whipping, flogging, caning or amputation.
It goes without saying that these practices are abuses of children’s rights, including the right to life, liberty and freedom from torture. Killing children, sentencing them to die in prison and/or physical punishment causes severe mental and physical harm to children, families and societies.
Sentencing children to death, life imprisonment and corporal punishment have all been consistently denounced by the UN and regional human rights bodies as a violation of children’s rights. The UN study on Violence Against Children further reiterated States’ obligations to end these violent forms of criminal sentencing. Further, CRIN has produced a detailed paper on international human rights standards in this area.
Yet despite clear international condemnation, it continues. For instance, some States say that they don’t sentence children to death because it is against their laws. But in practice they do because they don’t have effective birth registration, and it is often up to the child to prove that they are under 18 years.
The evidence against State offenders
CRIN has developed detailed country reports on States which still authorise the inhuman sentencing of children.
We are inviting governments and civil society organisations to comment on and/or verify the contents of these country reports by either contacting us or filling in the country assessment questionnaire. Country reports will be updated whenever we receive new information.
In addition to our country reports, we are developing regional reports that analyse inhuman sentencing laws and practices across countries and legal systems, as well as reports about specific types of inhuman sentences.
Death penalty (Our detailed paper on human rights standards on inhuman sentencing contains information on why this is a rights violations).
Corporal punishment - See the Global Initiative to End All Forms of Corporal Punishment for specific details on why corporal punishment (including as a criminal sentence) is a human rights violation.
This campaign is challenging specific grave and systematic violations of children’s rights. In challenging these particular violations, we must emphasise that we are not in any way reducing our condemnation of all violations of children’s rights and insistence on full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other human rights instruments. States’ obligations in the field of juvenile justice go far beyond ending the availability of these inhuman sentences for child offenders; for example to develop separate, fully rights-compliant juvenile justice systems with a single focus on rehabilitation and reintegration, not retribution; to ensure that within these systems detention of children should only be used as a last resort, for the shortest possible time and only for reasons of public safety. And States are required to move immediately not only to stop whipping and flogging children as sentences of the courts, but to prohibit and eliminate all corporal punishment of children in all settings.
* For the purpose of this campaign, we are calling on the abolition of the juvenile death penalty, however, CRIN believes that the death penalty should be abolished for all individuals regardless of their age.