The week in children's rights - 1577

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11 April 2018 subscribe | subscribe | submit information
  • In this issue:

    Latest news and reports  
    - Environmental justice
    - Health
    - Violence
    - Armed conflict

    Upcoming events





    Environmental justice

    Colombia’s Supreme Court has ruled that deforestation infringes on the fundamental rights of current and future generations, in a case brought by a group of 25 children and young people. With the support of legal advocacy organisation Dejusticia, the plaintiffs argued that the government’s failure to protect the Colombian Amazon against deforestation and a rising average temperature in the country jeopardised their right to a healthy environment, life, health, food and water. Statistics show that deforestation increased in the country by 44 percent between 2015 and 2016. The Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs, finding a link between the harmful impact on their fundamental rights and climate change caused by the reduction of forest cover, which is due to the expansion of agricultural borders, drug crops, illegal mining and illegal logging. The court ruled that the State has not sufficiently addressed deforestation and gave it four months to adopt a plan with short-, medium- and long-term goals to protect the rainforest. In addition, the Supreme Court recognised the Colombian Amazon forest as an "entity subject of rights," a status which means the State has a duty to protect, conserve, maintain, and restore the forest.

    The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines has held the first public hearing of its investigation on whether fossil fuel companies can be held responsible for climate-related disasters.The commission launched the investigation in 2015 after receiving a petition from a group of environmental organisations, community groups and 18 individuals, which targets 47 major oil, gas, coal and cement companies, including some that do not operate in the country. An island nation, the Philippines is among the countries most at risk from the effects of climate change. At the hearing, one expert discussed the science behind tying emissions and global warming to fossil fuel companies, while another presented evidence of how companies have misled the public about climate risks. The hearing phase is expected to last a year, after which the commission will issue a report. While it cannot impose financial penalties or hand down legally binding decisions, the commission’s findings and recommendations could lead to tougher regulations. In addition, any findings of human rights abuse could also lead to lawsuits around the world since many of the fossil fuel companies under investigation do business in many countries globally.



    As many as 25,000 children in Papua New Guinea are in desperate need of psychological support following a series of devastating earthquakes, the World Health Organization has warned. The country’s government estimates that 270,000 people are in need of urgent assistance after the quakes, including 125,000 children, of whom as many as one in five need psychological help, the WHO said. The 7.5 magnitude earthquake on 26 February was followed by almost 200 aftershock tremors, with some reaching a magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale. “Children are still being confronted by fear, loss, confusion, family separation, deteriorated living conditions and disruption of social and school activities,” said Karen Allen, UNICEF’s representative in the country. A lack of water and shelter, combined with the threat of disease is compounding the mental trauma suffered by some children. Worsening the situation further is the outbreak of violence, which has seen many children flee their homes or be pressed into carrying out attacks on others by adults. Allen explained: “There are children even under the age of 10 running around with weapons. It’s this normalisation of extreme violence that will affect children the most”.

    Girls in rural Mauritania are reportedly being forced to take steroids meant for animals in order to make them gain weight faster. Many girls in the country already endure force feeding from their parents, as many Mauritanian men believe that larger women make better wives. The tradition is closely linked to child marriage because it accelerates puberty and makes younger girls appear more womanly, according to rights group Equality Now. The practice of force feeding is known as gavage – a French term used to describe fattening up geese to produce foie gras – and can leave young girls with diabetes, hypertension or heart disease for life. Girls of around eight years old can weigh 140kg after force feeding, putting a huge strain on their hearts and jeopardising their health. Rights activists have now warned that as drought has left many families short of food, some are turning to “chemical gavage”, with some buying drugs such as corticoids – steroid hormones – to gain weight and increase their chances of marriage.

    Children as young as 11 years old have been found working on tobacco farms in Zimbabwe, jeopardising both their health and their education, according to new research. Human Rights Watch documented children working in hazardous conditions, risking acute nicotine poisoning by exposing themselves to tobacco plants and sometimes handling pesticides without protective equipment. All of the child workers interviewed said they had experienced at least one symptom consistent with acute nicotine poisoning, while teachers in the country reported rising absenteeism in schools related to the start of the tobacco growing season. More than half of the 64 small-scale farmers interviewed for the report said that under-18s worked on their tobacco farms—either their own children or family members, or children they hired to work on their farms. Last year Zimbabwe earned $900m from tobacco exports and the country’s new President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has pledged to prioritise agriculture as he looks to revive Zimbabwe’s shattered economy.


    Three Palestinian children have been killed and a further 77 have been wounded after Israeli security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Gaza. The children were among those taking part in a mass demonstration demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to land in Israel. Tens of thousands of people had planned to camp several hundred metres from the Israeli frontier, which surrounds the 140-square-mile Gaza strip on two sides, as a peaceful, six-week protest. During the protest, groups of mostly young men approached the border at several locations and started throwing stones and burning tyres, and Israeli soldiers responded by opening fire with live ammunition, rubber-coated rounds and tear gas. According to figures from Gaza’s ministry of health, Israeli soldiers shot 773 people with live ammunition and the UN has reported that more than 1,400 people have been wounded since demonstrations began on 30 April.

    At least 74 children have been killed in police operations and vigilante-style attacks in the Philippines over the last 17 months, according to research from a local advocacy group. The Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC) has been conducting a count of young victims in the Duterte administration’s “war on drugs”, which some senators claim has seen as many as 20,000 people suspected of using or selling drugs killed since 2016. CLRDC claims to have evidence of at least 56 boys and 18 girls being killed since Duterte’s crackdown was announced, with some children also being included on a so-called ‘drug watch list’ mentioned by the police when making an official report about a death. CLRDC further reported that they had encountered cases of children being killed just after they left juvenile detention centres. Duterte has previously described children killed as “collateral damage” in his war on drugs, though several high profile killings have highlighted how children are being directly targeted by police and vigilantes.

    Armed conflict

    Several children were among those killed in an airstrike on the rebel-held Yemeni port of Hodeida. The UN has called it "one of the deadliest attacks" against children in the country since the conflict escalated in 2015. The strike occurred in Hodeida province, which is controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition is the only force known to carry out airstrikes in Houthi rebel-held territory and has previously admitted to "erroneous" strikes that caused civilian casualties. Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a military intervention in Yemen in 2015 with the aim of reversing gains made by Houthi rebels who had seized the capital. The ongoing war in Yemen has killed or injured more than 5,000 children and left another 400,000 severely malnourished due to strikes on infrastructure and a blockade of the country’s ports.

    Children were also among the dead after a suspected chemical attack in Douma, a rebel-held area near Damascus, Syria. The pro-opposition Ghouta Media Centre alleged that a helicopter had dropped a barrel bomb containing sarin, while another organisation claimed that a hospital had been hit by a chlorine bomb. Unverified images and videos showed dozens of bodies, including children, many foaming at the nose and mouth, symptoms indicative of exposure to chemical agents. Footage from inside a hospital where people exposed to the attack were taken showed children shaking and having seizures. The World Health Organization has confirmed that 500 people have been treated for symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals and reported that the death toll includes at least 70 people, with opposition groups claiming that as many as 1,000 people have been affected by the attack. Doctors at the hospital told journalists via WhatsApp that in addition to spasms and secretions from the mouth and nose, they had also treated patients with miosis, or constriction of the pupil, symptoms consistent with exposure to nerve agents. Both Syria and Russia deny the chemical attack took place.



    Conference: Deprivation of Liberty of Children in the Justice System
    Organisation: Leiden University
    Date: 13 April 2018
    Location: Leiden, The Netherlands

    Conference: Genital Autonomy and Children's Rights
    Organisation: Genital Autonomy - America
    Dates: 4-6 May 2018
    Location: San Francisco, United States

    Demonstration: Worldwide Day of Genital Autonomy
    Organisation: Genital Autonomy - America
    Date: 7 May 2018
    Location: San Francisco, United States

    Conference: Access to justice for children in Africa
    Organisation: Defence for Children International and the African Child Policy Forum
    Dates: 8-10 May 2018
    Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

    Call for papers: Shared Parenting, Social Justice and Children´s Rights
    Organisation: International Council on Shared Parenting
    Submission deadline: 15 May 2018
    Location: Strasbourg, France

    Justice for children: World Congress
    Organisation: Terres des hommes et al.
    Dates: 28-30 May 2018
    Location: Paris, France

    Conference: International Refugee Rights
    Organisation: Canadian Council for Refugees
    Date: 7-9 June 2018
    Location: Toronto, Canada 

    Education: International Children's Rights
    Organisation: Leiden University
    Application deadline: 1 April 2018 (non-EU) / 15 June 2018 (EU students)
    Course dates: September 2018 - Summer 2019
    Location: Leiden, The Netherlands

    Education: Certificate of Advanced Studies in Juvenile Justice
    Organisation: University of Geneva
    Registration deadline: 30 June 2018
    Course dates: August 2018 - July 2019
    Location: Online

    Conference: Eurochild Conference 2018 - call for child delegations
    Organisation: Eurochild
    Application deadline: 1 July 2018
    Event dates: 29-31 October 2018
    Location: Opatija, Croatia 

    Conference: Contemporary Childhood - Children in Space, Place and Time
    Organisation: University of Strathclyde
    Application deadline: 27 August 2018
    Event dates: 6-7 September 2018
    Location: Glasgow, United Kingdom


    ESCR-Net: Solidarity and Membership Coordinator
    Application deadline: Rolling  
    Location: New York City, United States

    ESCR-Net: Programme Coordinator for the Strategic Litigation Working Group
    Application deadline: Rolling
    Location: New York, United States



    “And the world’s response? Empty words, feeble condemnations, and a Security Council paralysed by the use of the veto. The world – and in particular the veto-wielding States on the Security Council – need to wake up, and wake up fast, to the irreparable damage that is being done to one of the most important planks of global arms control and prevention of human suffering.”

    - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in response to the futility of mere verbal condemnation of the latest chemical attack against civilians in Syria.


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