On 8 October, the Independent Expert, Manfred Nowak, leading the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty presented a report to the UN General Assembly. The presentation of the final report is set for 20 November, at the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Leiden University has played an active role in the study.
Some key findings
The Study has found that altogether, between 1.3 and 1.5 million children are deprived of their liberty per year. Of those, the largest number are in institutions (430,000 – 680,000). 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 care to children. “Tough-on crime” policies also contribute to a large number of children being detained. Still, these numbers may be on the low side. The issue remains underreported in many States.
The Study emphasized that Article 37 (b) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child comprises a high standard applicable to all situations in which children are deprived of their liberty. It requires that no child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily; and if so, only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. This standard requires States to reduce the detention of children to an absolute minimum by developing and applying appropriate non-custodial solutions.
States are (amongst others) recommended to make all efforts to reduce the number of children in detention and prevent it before it occurs, including addressing the root causes and pathways leading to it. It further recommends that, if detention is unavoidable, it shall be applied only for the shortest appropriate period of time. Children’s right to be heard under article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be observed, to enable them to influence decisions relating to their treatment and lodge complaints to an independent and impartial authority in any grievance related to their treatment.
Leiden University’s contribution
The study was invited by the UN General Assembly in December 2014 by its resolution 69/157. Leiden University played an active role in the study. Among 21 other renowned experts Prof. Liefaard was a member of its international advisory board. In addition, Dr. Yannick van de Brink and Prof. Liefaard have contributed to the chapter on juvenile justice. Prof. Julia Sloth-Nielsen was involved in one of the regional consultations. In addition, the Department of Child Law hosted an international conference on this study in April 2018 in Leiden. You can find the GA report here.