In this issue:
Latest news and reports
- Inhuman sentencing
- Education and discrimination
- Health and toxics
- Deprivation of liberty
LATEST NEWS AND REPORTS
Several young protesters may face imminent execution in Saudi Arabia according to reports from Reprieve. Despite recently declaring various reforms and setting out a more modern vision, Saudi Arabia’s government still maintains plans to execute peaceful protesters and individuals who were charged with crimes committed as children. On 2 January 2016, Saudi Arabia executed 47 people in one day, including several sentenced as children. Reprieve’s research has shown that in 2017, several smaller mass executions were carried out in the Kingdom, with 141 people executed overall, mostly under the country’s new ruler. The organisation warned that more people sentenced to die for crimes committed as children could be among upcoming executions this year, and has called for world leaders to raise the issue with the new Crown Prince.
Iran has reportedly carried out the execution of a man sentenced for crimes he committed as a child. Amirhossein Pourjafar was sentenced to death in September 2016 and repeated calls were made to commute his sentence, including a joint statement from several UN experts, who pointed out that the ongoing juvenile executions in Iran were strictly prohibited by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is party. Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentence in January 2017 but delayed the enactment of the sentence when the UN experts made an urgent plea for it to be annulled. After Iran rescheduled the execution, the experts again called on the government to reconsider, but Pourjafar was reportedly executed on the morning of 4 January this year.
Education and discrimination
Five schoolgirls who were arrested in Tanzania
for being pregnant will not face any charges
. The girls were taken into custody alongside their parents on the orders of a local government administrator, allegedly as part of a move to appear “tough” on teenage pregnancies. However, there are no provisions under Tanzanian law allowing girls to be arrested for being pregnant, according to local charities. More than 15,000 pregnant girls drop out of school every year in Tanzania, according to Human Rights Watch; yet last year, President John Magufuli said his administration would not allow teenage mothers to go back to school after giving birth. Last month Magufuli also pardoned two men
convicted of the rape of 10 primary school children. Tandahimba District Commissioner Sebastian Waryuba called for the arrest of 55 pregnant girls shortly before the New Year, but rights groups have argued that the men who fathered the children should be arrested, rather than further victimising the girls involved.
As many as one in eight
pupils in schools for children with mental disabilities in the Czech Republic
may be Roma, according to new government figures. The country’s data on inclusion in education shows that as many as 33,704 Roma children attend elementary schools in the current school year, but more than 12 percent are placed in schools or classes for those with learning difficulties or disabilities. Although the situation has improved since a landmark anti-discrimination ruling
at the European Court of Human Rights in 2007, the country’s education system remains remarkably segregated, with roughly one in five Roma students attending schools in which more than half of their fellow pupils are also Roma children. Fully or largely Roma schools and classes have been established, the report said, adding that some parents still want their children separated from the majority of students to avoid anti-Roma bullying or discrimination in class.
A complaint has been lodged against a primary school in Cyprus
after a priest was invited to visit the institution and hold confession for children
. The Cyprus Humanist Association filed a complaint with the education ministry after the priest heard the confessions of pupils during teaching hours for three days. The school reportedly sent a letter to parents informing them, but did not ask for consent for their children to be involved, leading to at least one child taking part without their parents knowing. Some parents argued that, although the confession was supposed to be voluntary, not taking part could become the basis for discrimination or bullying on account of having a different faith or none at all. Objectors cited a previous decision from the country’s ombudsperson, and argued in a letter to the ministry that “modern and democratic schools ought to promote rationalism and critical thinking, not religious dogmatism and catechism”.
Health and toxics
Supreme Court has dismissed a petition by paint manufacturers against regulating the level of lead in paint, as it recognised the harmful effects the toxic element
can have on the public’s health, especially children. Heavily leaded paints are commonly used in homes, schools and parks in the country. Four studies carried out between 2010 to 2014 found that over 70 percent of paints sold in Nepal - especially enamel paints - contained lead levels well over 90 ppm, the internationally accepted standard for lead in paints. In December 2014 the government set the lead level of 90 ppm in paint products, but paint manufacturers challenged it, claiming that the regulation violated their right to conduct business in a free environment. The current rules also make it compulsory to label the exact lead content and printing a precautionary message for occupational safety on paint cans. However, studies conducted by government bodies show poor compliance of the Nepali paint industry with lead level standards, with one concluding that the compliance level is below 60 percent.
A United States
federal appeals court has ordered
the national health and environment agency to revise its standard for dangerous levels of lead in paint and dust within one year, citing the persistent threat of lead paint to children’s health across the country
. The decision means that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has 90 days to propose a new rule for how much lead can be in dust and soil before it is considered a hazard and needs to be cleaned up. Activists have welcomed the decision, saying there has been a frustrating lack of action through two administrations to strengthen lead limits. The EPA set standards in 2001 for lead contamination levels in dust and soil in homes, but environmental and health groups petitioned the agency to tighten the limits. In 2011, under former-president Obama, the agency agreed to take action, but never did so and set no timelines for developing a new rule. The Trump administration then said it expected to take another six years to issue a new regulation. Studies have found that after decades of work to reduce lead in paint, dust and water, about three percent of children around the country exhibit high levels of the metal in their blood.
health ministry has allegedly collected blood samples from school children without parental consent
, according to residents of the Makululu settlement in the city of Kabwe, referred to as the world’s most polluted town. It’s not clear why blood samples were reportedly taken, but the government claims that the first steps towards a clean-up in the city have begun after almost a century of lead mining and smelting. Children continue to play in open spaces in Kabwe, where the soil is highly contaminated. Some children are reported to be coughing and bleeding from the nose after inhaling lead. Residents have called for community education on the health risks, saying the situation may become worse during the rainy season. Pollution in the Makululu settlement has worsened, according to a local resident, because illegal mining activities continue.
Deprivation of liberty
Research by The New York Times has found that at least 333 Afghan
children are currently being held in prison with their mothers
. The research involved interviews with officials at 33 of the country’s 34 provincial prisons, and found that of the 333 children imprisoned, many were of school age, and 103 were older than five, the age at which they are eligible for transfer to orphanages. The total does not include children in juvenile detention for crimes of their own. Most Afghan women in prison are convicted of so-called ‘social crimes’ - offences that would not be crimes in most countries, like running away from their husbands, committing adultery (or being accused of it), or refusing to submit to abusive practices like forced marriage and domestic violence.
In the United States
, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections has announced that it will be closing two state-run youth correctional facilities. This decision comes following an injunction
secured by the ACLU of Wisconsin and Juvenile Law Center, which filed a class action civil rights lawsuit in federal court
on behalf of young people confined in the facilities related to the use of solitary confinement, pepper spray, shackling, and strip searching of children. The facilities, which imprison up to 200 children, had previously been under investigation for a range of children’s rights violations after staff were found to have regularly physically abused children. The Department of Corrections has said it plans to move the children to several facilities closer to their homes in Southeast Wisconsin.
A judge in New Zealand’s
Court of Appeal has ruled that a teenage boy was illegally detained
at a youth justice facility after his behaviour led to him being kicked out of a residential school. Justice Helen Winkelmann said legislation "did not provide authority" for the child to be detained at the Te Puna Wai detention facility as a last resort, despite the local authority claiming other potentially viable care and protection facilities had no available beds. The detention was the result of a string of incidents including alleged sexual assault on another young person, violent behaviour at school and in care, and threats to kill himself over several years. The boy had previously been placed in a residential school for young men displaying harmful sexual behaviour, where violent outbursts led to him being charged with assault with intent to injure. Placing the boy in a prison environment meant he was "deprived of his liberty" the judge said, adding that “He was physically constrained and subject to control over his physical movement to an extent beyond the level of control which is a normal incident of parenting”.
THE LAST WORD
Beware foreign language learners, for an insidious threat is lurking in your textbooks: CULTURAL INVASION! At least this is the case in the eyes of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ordered an end to teaching English at primary schools.
The enlightened leadership of Iran, fresh from crushing protests related to an ailing economy, has declared that English lessons should be scrapped over fears that children will grow up with western-influenced values. Instead, English will be reserved for middle schools and high schools only.
In the view of the head of the High Education Council, Mehdi Navid-Adham, it’s better to get them while they’re young. Parroting comments from the country’s supreme leader, Navid-Adham claimed that primary education is crucial for instilling Iranian culture and values in the nation’s students.