In this issue:
Latest news and reports
- Inhuman sentencing
- Sexual abuse
- Armed conflict
- Education and discrimination
LATEST NEWS AND REPORTS
A young man in Iran who was sentenced to death at the age of 15 for murder was executed last Wednesday at Qom Central Prison. Abolfazl Chazani Sharahi is the fourth juvenile offender executed in Iran since the beginning of this year. More than 100 juvenile offenders are on death row in the country’s prisons, according to the organisation Iran Human Rights. International law forbids the imposition of the death sentence on anyone under the age of 18 at the time of their offence, but article 91 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code nonetheless allows the sentence if the offender is deemed to be mentally mature at the time of their offence. At least four people are at imminent risk of execution in the country for crimes they committed as children.
A former child bride in Sudan who was sentenced to death for killing her husband in self defence after he tried to rape her has had her sentence overturned. Noura Hussein, 19, was married off by her father at the age of 16. She said her husband raped her on the sixth day of their marriage as she had refused to have sex with him after their wedding. Three of the husband’s male relatives restrained her during the ordeal. After he attempted to rape her again the following day, and as she struggled to stop him, she stabbed him, killing him. A Sharia court had found Hussein guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced her to death by hanging, but an appeals court has now overturned the sentence, instead jailing her for five years and fining her 375 Sudanese pounds (about $20), according to Hussein’s lawyers.
Australia has begun a compensation scheme for victims of institutional child sexual abuse with an estimated 60,000 people being eligible for the National Redress Scheme. Authorities have allocated AUS$4bn for the compensation fund. Financial redress was a key recommendation of a national inquiry into decades of child abuse in Australian religious organisations, schools, charities, sports clubs and the military. The Australian government accepted almost all of the investigation’s recommendations. Many state governments and religious groups, including the Catholic church, have joined the scheme with the maximum award per victim being capped at AUS$150,000, though the average payment is likely to be around half that amount. Some lawyers say the scheme should only be a last resort because victims might get higher compensation by suing the institutions where they were abused.
Haiti has withdrawn Oxfam Great Britain's right to operate in the countryafter allegations of sexual misconduct by some of the charity's staff. The Haitian government said they were withdrawing Oxfam GB’s status as a non-governmental organisation "for violation of Haitian law and serious violation of the principle of the dignity of the human beings". Oxfam GB has been heavily criticised for the way it handled allegations that staff, including a former Haiti country director, used prostitutes during a relief mission after a devastating earthquake hit the island nation in 2010. In February, Haiti temporarily revoked Oxfam GB's right to operate in the country, but research carried out by Save the Children reportedly showed that UK charities were aware of children as young as six being coerced into sex in exchange for food and necessities for years.
The UN Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict has reported a rise in the number of children killed, maimed or recruited in conflict, and has drawn criticism for failing to include a number of countries on its ‘list of shame’. According to the report more than 10,000 children were killed or maimed in armed conflicts last year, while more than 21,000 "grave violations" of children's rights were reported. The numbers represent a sharp rise compared to 2016, with conflicts in 20 countriesinvolving children used as soldiers and seeing children killed or injured during fighting.
In the report, Secretary-General António Guterres also announced that he was removing the Saudi-led coalition from the blacklist of groups that have attacked schools and hospitals, despite the alliance’s numerous attacks on civilian targets in Yemen. The Secretary-General also failed to list Israel, Sudan, Iraq, and parties in Ukraine as responsible for violations against children, despite the report noting that 1,200 child soldiers had been recruited in South Sudan and 1,000 children had been imprisoned in Iraq. For the second year in a row, Guterres broke with tradition and divided the ‘list of shame’ into two sections: one for parties “that have put in place measures during the reporting period aimed at improving the protection of children” and another for parties that have not, which rights groups have argued undermines the entire point of the list.
Education and discrimination
In Hong Kong
, LGBT groups have expressed outrage after ten children’s story books featuring same-sex parenting were moved to “closed” shelves following campaigns for censorship. The books were moved out of view in public libraries in the city and are now only available if the library is contacted directly to request the publications. A conservative organisation, The Family School Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance Concern Group (Family SODO), petitioned the authorities to review the books and move them out of sight, claiming that they contain and promote “unethical homosexual messages
”. LGBT groups have protested the move, claiming that removal of the books was due to weakness on the part of the government in the face of “unjustified complaints from the moral Taliban
”. Family SODO has also campaigned for LGBT-themed books to be banned from the upcoming Hong Kong Book Fair, but the event’s deputy executive director, Benjamin Chau Kai-leung, refused
, responding that “there is no censorship in publishing in Hong Kong”.
The department of education in the Philippines
has hit back at government plans to conduct drug tests on student as young as ten
, claiming that it would be against the law. The country’s Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) recently unveiled plans to carry out mandatory drug tests in schools as part of the president’s ongoing ‘war on drugs’, but education officials pointed out that the law only allows for drug tests to be carried out on students in secondary or tertiary education
. PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino had previously said the agency wanted to test all students in elementary schools, as they had found children as young as ten years old using drugs. The move comes two years into President Rodrigo Duterte’s first term, during which police have killed more than 4,200
suspected drugs dealers and users. Several thousand more have been killed by unknown gunmen, who authorities have described as vigilantes or rival gang members.
THE LAST WORD
“The idea that the Saudi-led coalition has taken effective measures to protect children is pure fiction.The secretary-general has adopted a disturbing double standard that lets some parties off the hook and not others. He should hold all of those responsible for violations against children to account, without favoritism.”
— Human Rights Watch’s children’s rights advocacy director, Jo Becker, commenting on omissions from the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict.