UN Global Study On Children Deprived Of Liberty
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Edited News | OHCHR , UNOG

OHCHR press conference: UN Global Study On Children Deprived Of Liberty

Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (20 Nov), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) launched a report recognizing that more than seven million children worldwide are suffering in various types of child-specific institutions, immigration detention centres, police custody, prisons and other places of detention.

The ‘UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty’ aims to provide recommendations for law, policy and practice to safeguard the human rights of the countless children placed in detention centres, which are very often, adult facilities, according to the independent expert leading the report, Manfred Nowak.

To decrease their risk of violence, rape and sexual assault, he emphasized that “States should establish special child justice systems, that means special child courts, special child detention facilities where they are separated from adults.”

He also insisted that States train “special police officers, for instance, with a particular expertise in how to deal with children in conflict with the law.”

The report recognizes that migration-related detention of children cannot be considered as a measure of last resort and is never in the best interests of the child and, therefore, should always be prohibited. Nevertheless, the data collected by the study indicate that, around the world, at least 330,000 children are detained for migration-related purposes per year.

At least 77 States are known to still detain children for such reasons, while at least 21 States do not, or claim not to do so. Nowak admitted that “the United States is one of the countries with the highest numbers” and according to him, there are still “more than 100,000 children in migration-related detention in the United States of America.”

At the same time, the report indicates that Mexico has also made extensive use of detention of children in immigration processes, while giving an overview of global data. According to the study, precise data on the immigration detention of children at a global scale is hard to come by owing to the major differences in how child migration and the detention of children are defined, observed and measured from place to place.

The UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty also compiled the interviews of “274 children from 22 different countries.” Nowak stressed that "child participation was a very important aspect of the preparation of the Global Study.”

According to the report, the most important reason for the large number of children in detention is the lack of adequate support for families, caregivers and communities to provide appropriate care to children and encourage their development.

The study also found that the number of children detained in the context of armed conflict and national security has increased sharply, driven by aggressive counterterrorism measures that include detention and prosecution of children for online activity, including posts to Facebook and Twitter.

According to the study, children with disabilities are significantly overrepresented in detention in the context of administration of justice and institutions. Nowak highlighted the need to “de-institutionalise.” He emphasized his call for children to “grow up in families - or family settings, and not in institutions,” saying that institutions are where the children “are in fact deprived of liberty, where there is strict discipline, there is a lot of violence, there is no love etc.”  

1. Wide shot, exterior shot, Palais des Nations
2. Wide shot, Room III
3. Wide shot, journalists
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Manfred Nowak, Independent Expert leading the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty:
“States should establish special child justice systems, that means special child courts, special child detention facilities where they are separated from adults, but also special police officers, for instance, with a particular expertise in how to deal with children in conflict with the law.”
5. Med shot, photographer
6. SOUNDBITE (English) Manfred Nowak, Independent Expert leading the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty:
“The United States is one of the countries with the highest numbers: we have more than 100,000 children in migration-related detention in the United States of America. So that’s far more than all the other countries where we have reliable figures.”
7. Wide shot, journalists
8. SOUNDBITE (English) Manfred Nowak, Independent Expert leading the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty:
“Article 37(b) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is very, very clear. It says that the detention of children shall only be a measure of last resort, and only if absolutely necessary for the shortest appropriate period of time. That means, in principle, children should not be deprived of liberty, and States should look to find non-custodial solutions, and usually they are available.”
9. Med shot, journalists
10. SOUNDBITE (English) Manfred Nowak, Independent Expert leading the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty:
“We interviewed 274 children in 22 different countries. We also tried to invite children to the regional consultations to speak about their experiences. For us, child participation was a very important aspect of the preparation of the Global Study.”
11. Med shot, cameras
12. SOUNDBITE (English) Manfred Nowak, Independent Expert leading the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty:
“So our main conclusions are fairly clear with respect to institutions: de-institutionalise. Children should live, or grow up in families - their own families, foster families, family-type settings, and not in institutions where they are in fact deprived of liberty, where there is strict discipline, there is a lot of violence, there is no love etc.”
13. Wide shot, journalists, panel
14. Close up, Manfred Nowak
15. Wide shot, Panel
16. Close up, journalist writing  

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