In this issue:
New Deprivation of Liberty campaign site
Latest news and reports
- Arrest and detention
- Violence against children
New Deprivation of Liberty campaign site
CRIN has launched a new campaign site on children’s rights and the deprivation of liberty. As the UN’s Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty gets underway, CRIN is stepping up its work on children who are detained.
Children are being detained around the world as punishment for a crime, because of their immigration status and where their families are unable to provide care. These children are among the most vulnerable in the world, held in prisons, immigration centres, care institutions, and military facilities where they can face violence, abuse and neglect. Because of the closed nature of these facilities, much of this ill-treatment remains hidden and children struggle to access justice. Yet no one knows how many children are deprived of their liberty around the world. The Global Study is an opportunity to change this and trigger global reform.
CRIN’s campaign site helps to explain the issues and acts as a call to action for those who want to end child detention. We hope you find the following pages useful:
- Why the issue and the Global Study are so important
- Explainers about the different forms of child detention
- Regional and national data on the number of children in detention
- Case law challenging the practice of detaining children
- How NGOs and advocates can get involved
Any comments or enquiries? Please contact us via: [email protected]
LATEST NEWS AND REPORTS
Arrest and detention
Systemic failures were ignored at the highest levels for years in detention facilities for children in Australia, according to a scathing report from the Royal Commission into protection and detention systems. The report, focused on the country’s Northern Territory, found that children were subjected to verbal abuse, physical control and humiliation, including being denied access to basic human needs, such as water, food and access to toilets. The report also highlights the use of force by youth justice officers and documents cases in which children were dared or bribed to carry out degrading and humiliating acts and to commit acts of violence. The inquiry was launched after footage from the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre was aired on national television in 2016, showing children being beaten, stripped and sprayed with tear gas. The report sets out recommendations to improve the youth justice system, including closing the current Don Dale facility, raising the age of criminal responsibility and developing a shift towards diversion and therapeutic approaches to youth offending. The government has pledged to close the Don Dale facility within three months, but it remains to be seen whether the reforms will amount to the fundamental change called for in the report.
A 15-year-old girl has reportedly been arrested and accused of sorcery in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for participating in a peaceful protest. The girl is believed to have attended the protest with her father in support of the “C’en Est Trop” (“This is too much”) campaign in the east of the country calling for president Joseph Kabila to leave office by the end of 2017, in accordance with an agreement signed last year. Police are accused of attacking protesters outside a local administrative office when the police commander gave the order to arrest them. The girl was reportedly detained with her father and 11 others at the main prison in the Idjwi territory. Congolese security forces are reported to have detained at least 52 people on 15 November for participating in small marches and demonstrations across six regions of the country, with at least eight remaining in detention. The UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MONUSCO) has urged Congolese authorities to respect "the freedom to demonstrate in a peaceful and restrained manner" and to "allow all voices to express themselves calmly and peacefully”.
Violence against children
Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic has been found guilty of genocide for his involvement in some of the worst atrocities committed during the 1990s Bosnian war, and sentenced to life in prison. Mladic faced 11 charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), including crimes against humanity, with judges ruling that the 74-year-old general “significantly contributed" to genocide committed at Srebrenica, where more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were massacred. He was also convicted of atrocities during the siege of Sarajevo in which more than 10,000 people died. At the end of the war in 1995 he went into hiding and lived in obscurity in Serbia, until he was finally arrested in 2011. The case was the last to be heard by the ICTY and the court will cease to exist at the end of the year.
Armenia’s parliament is set to consider a bill to criminalise domestic violence, including against children. Domestic abuse is not yet illegal in Armenia, which is one of only two Council of Europe States not to have signed the the Istanbul Convention against gender and domestic violence. Raising the issue in parliament last month, Armenian Deputy Justice Minister Vigen Kocharian highlighted that about 47 percent of cases of sexual abuse of children take place in the family. However, the bill has faced opposition from conservative critics who say it represents a state intrusion against the family and would make it easier for authorities to take children away from parents. In fact, the draft law does not envisage any mechanisms for placing children in state care, nor for opening shelters for children. Women’s rights groups have also noted that domestic violence survivors have been left on the periphery of the discussion, with the draft slowly being turned from a preventive and protective tool into a mechanism for “family reconciliation” between abusers and survivors. A vote in parliament on the proposed bill is expected soon.
Online abuse and harassment against women and girls pushes them to censor themselves on social media and withdraw from conversations, rights groups have said. In a new poll on the issue, a third of women surveyed said they stopped expressing their opinions online, while more than 40 percent said the online abuse made them fear for their physical safety. In a previous poll by Plan International nearly half of girls aged 11-18 said they had experienced abuse or harassment on social media. The harassment is often sexual in nature, including crude comments on pictures or sexual references. Advocates say that parents, teachers and police often respond to online abuse by telling them to go offline or taking away girls’ phones, teaching victims that they are responsible for the problem. “It’s no secret that misogyny and abuse are thriving on social media platforms, but this poll shows just how damaging the consequences of online abuse are,” said Amnesty International researcher Azmina Dhrodia.
Mexican drug cartels are forcing indigenous children and teens to join their ranks, torturing or killing those who refuse, a UN expert has reported. The Special Rapporteur on indigenous rights, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, said she was "particularly worried" about violence against children after a 10-day visit to the country, noting that she had been presented with “numerous cases of severe violations”. Tauli-Corpuz visited the northern state of Chihuahua and the southern states of Guerrero and Chiapas, meeting with members of 23 ethnic groups from 18 different regions. Tauli-Corpuz added that many of the indigenous children she met lived in “a context of extreme poverty, violence and impunity”, leaving them vulnerable to infant mortality and human trafficking. Tauli-Corpuz said criminal groups and in some cases the military and the authorities had also allegedly forced some indigenous communities off their land with massacres, murders, kidnappings, rape and torture – often to clear the way for logging or mining projects.
Firms including Microsoft, Renault and Huawei have taken "no action" to curb child labour in their cobalt supply chains, according to a new report by Amnesty International. The companies have been accused of failing to ensure minerals, particularly cobalt, used in their products are not mined using child labour. Children as young as seven years old are reportedly mining cobalt in narrow man-made tunnels, at risk of fatal accidents and serious lung disease. More than half of the world’s cobalt, which is a key component in lithium-ion batteries, comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and 20 percent is mined by hand. However, the report found that tech giants Apple and Samsung have made some progress in responsibly procuring cobalt, rating their efforts as “adequate”. Earlier this year, Apple became the first company to publish the names of its cobalt suppliers, and Amnesty’s research shows it is currently the industry leader when it comes to responsible cobalt sourcing.
LEAK OF THE WEEK
This year’s Universal Children’s Day saw a worldwide regime change whereby children, not adults, were finally calling the shots, in a movement known as #KidsTakeOver. The apparent child rebellion saw key roles in media, politics, business and entertainment seized by underage guerrillas, and there was even a “UN HQ Children’s Takeover”. The age revolution, it seemed, had arrived.
But fear not, dear adults, as no alarms were sounded. It turned out it was all for show! In this elaborate display probably produced by an automated PR ideas generator, the “takeover” consisted of a select few children visiting the UN and having a look around. Some had their photo taken behind oversized desks on which they pretended to sign executive orders, while others were filmed saying what issues matter most to them. And if all this didn’t leave us feeling warm and fuzzy, then there was a music video too. The next day, however, things went back to normal.
With the adults back in charge, we were reminded that most of the world’s children can’t actually do anything about the issues they care about because they have little or no political sway. Although children were encouraged on Universal Children’s Day to “fight for their rights and fulfil their potential”, two recent cases, in which the proposal to enfranchise children was blocked and representatives of a child workers movement were denied access to a conference on child labour, show that the adults in charge aren’t giving children much of a chance. Children’s participation is a funny thing when left in the hands of adults, and token efforts like #KidsTakeOver are no more than a photo opportunity at the General Assembly.