Monitoring children's rights in detention

By agency reporter
March 13, 2016

The Howard League for Penal Reform has helped to produce the first European Practical Guide dedicated to the monitoring of places of deprivation of liberty for children.

The guide, Monitoring places where children are deprived of liberty, was produced as part of a two-year project, Children’s Rights Behind Bars, which brought together international experts on justice and children’s rights.

It comes at a critical time – less than two months after an investigation by the BBC television programme Panorama exposed allegations of child abuse in G4S-run Medway Secure Training Centre, in Kent.

A Medway Improvement Board, set up in response to the allegations, is preparing a report for the Secretary of State for Justice. It held a meeting on 9 March, which the Howard League attended.

The Howard League has also met the new HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, to emphasise the importance of good monitoring of places where children are detained.

The Howard League was the UK lead on the Children’s Rights Behind Bars project, providing information regarding child custody in England and Wales as well as expert advice on the operation of domestic prison inspection and monitoring.

The 166-page guide, which was presented at the UN Human Rights Council last week, was developed in association with organisations from 13 other countries, 11 international experts, the Council of Europe, and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

Children’s rights and needs differ from those of adults, but until now there had been no particular European guidelines for monitoring places where children are deprived of their liberty.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Across Europe children are detained in places including prisons, secure units, police stations and mental health units. The Howard League has helped to develop standards for making sure they are protected from abuse and violence. Children in custody have to thrive so that they are able to live a good and useful life on release.”

Research conducted for Children’s Rights Behind Bars has shown that monitoring bodies rarely focus solely on children’s institutions, and that inspectors often lack necessary knowledge and training on child-specific issues.

The new guide has been designed to address this, providing monitoring bodies with a practical tool to help them better prepare, implement and follow up on visits to child detention facilities.

Based on research conducted across Europe, it adopts a child-specific approach to help improve the monitoring of places of child detention and protect children’s fundamental rights.

On Monday 7 March, the guide was presented at a side-event to the 31st session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, and discussed by a panel including Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Jean Zermatten, former Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The event, on the ‘Effective Monitoring of Child Detention Facilities’, was organised by Defence for Children International, and co-sponsored by the World Organisation Against Torture (OCMT), the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), and the Anti-Torture Initiative.

*Download Practical Guide – Monitoring places where children are deprived of liberty here.

* Howard League for Penal Reform


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