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6 October 2010, issue 1195 view online | subscribe | submit information



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Uruguay: Alarm raised for children in conflict with the law

This week, the World Organisation against Torture published an open letter to Mr José Mujica, President of Uruguay, to express concern about the situation of children in conflict with the law:

"The World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), which coordinates the SOS-Torture network – the largest international network of NGOs fighting against torture, summary executions, forced disappearances and all other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment – is writing to express its deep concern about the situation of children and adolescents deprived of their liberty in Uruguay.

Although OMCT recognises that Uruguay is one of the most cooperative countries in debating and defending children's rights globally, it considers the situation to be very different where implementing recommendations issued by international human rights mechanisms is concerned - in particular with regard to children in conflict with the law. In spite of recommendations made by a number of these mechanisms in recent years (by the Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Universal Periodic Review, the Committee on the Rights of the Child), the situation of children and adolescents deprived of their liberty has not improved; OMCT can confirm that it has, on the contrary, worsened.

Mr President, on the basis of information received from the Instituto de Estudios Legales y Sociales del Uruguay (IELSUR – a member of OMCT's SOS-Torture network), OMCT has observed a political shift towards the repression of children in conflict with the law. OMCT, in addition to concerns expressed in recent months (an oral declaration before the UN Human Rights Council and the May 2010 Mission), wishes to draw your attention to two pressing matters.

Firstly, OMCT expresses deep concern about various changes to the legislature's agenda affecting children and adolescents in conflict with the law. According to information received from IELSUR, some legislators are proposing lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16, increasing prison sentences for children and adolescents deprived of their liberty from 5 to 10 years and repealing article 222 of the Children and Adolescents' Code which stipulates that criminal records of children should be expunged when they turn 18.

OMCT reminds you that all these modifications breach international standards on children's rights, such as article 37b of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that deprivation of liberty may only be used as a last resort and for the shortest possible length of time. Furthermore, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has consistently stated that all under-18s, from the moment that they are alleged to have committed an offence, must be treated in conformity with juvenile justice standards.

In addition, OMCT expresses alarm over plans to house children deprived of their liberty in container-like cells, which signals declining detention conditions and a refusal to guarantee children's rights.

OMCT urges Your Excellency to make the most of your office's prestige and the unanimous respect that you enjoy on a personal level to prevent the adoption of more repressive laws on the detention of children and adolescents in conflict with the law, and to prevent the approval of plans to imprison children in containers. In this respect, in order to avoid overcrowding in detention centres and the consequent poor conditions, we suggest that files be reviewed with the aim of identifying children whose sentences could be reduced.

Secondly, OMCT draws your attention to a number of cases of abuse of children and adolescents deprived of their liberty which have occurred this year and of which we have been notified by IELSUR. OMCT is particularly concerned about a number of teenage girls deprived of their liberty in the Centro Femenino de Detención de Montevideo, who were victims of rape and sexual abuse carried out at night on multiple occasions. In this respect, OMCT has received information that the centre's director, having been informed of the facts, refused to make them public and delayed an investigation. It has also come to our attention that various officials at the centre who reported these violations are now suffering harassment at work. OMCT expresses serious concern that the officer accused of these violations was allowed to return to work at the centre and to resume contact with the girls the following week.

Your Excellency, OMCT urges you to order the authorities concerned to carry out an effective, exhaustive, independent and impartial investigation into the rape of these girls deprived of their liberty to identify those responsible. The outcome of the investigation must be made public and the perpetrators must be brought before a competent, independent and impartial court and sanctioned as stipulated by law. OMCT also requests that the victims be granted an effective remedy and appropriate reparation, including compensation and rehabilitation.

Finally, OMCT encourages you to adopt without delay the most suitable measures to guarantee the security, protection and rights of all children and adolescents deprived of their liberty in Uruguay, in addition to the recommendations pronounced on this issue by treaty bodies and other UN human rights mechanisms.

Your Excellency, Mr President, trusting in your respect for human rights, we would be grateful if you could give attention to this matter and hope that you will take our requests into account."

Further information


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Cruel intentions

Inhuman sentencing: Next week, CRIN - together with other partners - is launching a campaign for the prohibition and elimination of inhuman sentencing of children, defined to include sentences of death, life imprisonment and corporal punishment. Research suggests that in at least seven States, child offenders can lawfully be sentenced to death by lethal injection, hanging, shooting or stoning. In some States, children as young as 10 can be sentenced to life imprisonment. And in at least 40 States, children can still be sentenced to whipping, flogging, caning or amputation.

The event will be launched at the UN General Assembly next week, hosted by the the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations. The event will be chaired by Ambassador Morten Wetland, Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations, and speakers will include Marta Santos Pais (Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children) and Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Commissioner and Rapporteur on Children's Rights, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Organization of American States).

All campaign information will be available on the CRIN Violence website soon at:

Meanwhile in Syria, two teachers have been fired and banned from working with children after a Facebook group posted a video of them abusing young students, according to the BBC.

The video shows the two female teachers beating the children on their hands and on the soles of their feet with sticks. Full story.

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Committee on the Rights of the Child - latest recommendations

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has adopted Concluding Observations for the following States at its 55th session:

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC)

Optional Protocol on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC)

Read a detailed update of the Committee's work in this Friday's CRC CRINMAIL.

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Marriage proposals

Yemen: The parliament has delayed a vote on a child marriage law that would have raised the minimum legal age for marriage to 17.

The parliament was due to vote on a number of laws last Saturday. However, a dispute arose over a proposed election law, which meant that no other issues were addressed that day. (CNN). Full story.

United States: An Act to prevent child marriage across the world is pending before the Senate following unanimous approval by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The legislation would require the US State Department to cover child marriage in its annual human rights report, among other measures. 

The announcement comes in the wake of a new initiative on child marriage launched by the Elders, a group of former world leaders.(Cypress Times). Full story.

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Under obligation

New Zealand: A new report by UNICEF New Zealand looks at local authorities' obligations to children under the CRC. Download the report.

Complaints: Amnesty International has published a report describing key challenges in access to justice and effective remedies: lack of recognition of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) in many country's laws; ineffective remedies; lack of enforcement of decisions by government and barriers to access to justice faced by people living in poverty. Download the report.

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Children's Rights Masters Programme

The Master of Advanced Studies in Children's Rights (MCR) is a part-time two-year postgraduate programme in children's rights, which is jointly organised by the Institut Universitaire Kurt Bösch (IUKB), associated with the International Institute on children's rights (IDE), both in Sion (Switzerland) and the Law School and the Institute for family research and counselling at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland).

The application process for 2011-12 is now open. Find out more.

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UNICEF Middle East and North Africa: Consultants

UNICEF's Middle East and North Africa Regional Office is developing a roster of consultants to support its work at regional and country levels to contribute to the development of child-centred social policy and related areas, including: socio-economic analysis of trends impacting children; technical support in specialised areas, such as social protection, social budgeting for children and fiscal analysis; decentralisation; and poverty measurement and analysis. Read more.

Email your CV in English to: UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa, Amman, Jordan:

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Jargon of the week


Despite what it might sound like, synergy is not a fluorescent, sugary, caffeinated beverage to help you make it through an afternoon of proposal writing.  Disappointingly, a synergy is not something you can buy at all - it is merely a way of describing the successful cooperation between two different groups.  Synergies are frequently discussed in NGO materials, often with the goal of making a publication sound more professional or a charitable organisation sound more like a business. 

In practice, however, the word synergy is often vaguely used and almost always unnecessarily technical.  For these reasons, it should be avoided, and you should try to describe more specifically what you are doing or hoping to do in plain English.

For example

Instead of saying that you are looking for synergy with a partner organisation, say that you would like to cooperate or work together.   

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