2 October 2015 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon led a chorus of United Nations officials in hailing Somalia’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and in renewing the call for the last remaining country that has yet to join the treaty to do so.

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JUBA, 5th May 2015 - UNICEF today welcomed South Sudan’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and urged the Government to make child rights the cornerstone of the world’s youngest nation.

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NEW YORK, 20 January 2015 - The United Nations today applauded Somalia’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – a move which was praised as being an “important step” towards protecting and promoting the rights of all children in the war-torn nation and an explicit commitment towards improving the lives of its youngest citizens.

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Dear colleagues,

In February 2013, the terms of nine members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child will expire. These are: Ms. Hadeel Al-Asmar (Syrian Arab Republic), Mr. Peter Gurán (Slovakia), Mr. Sanphasit Koompraphant (Thailand), Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea), Ms. Marta Mauras Perez (Chile), Ms. Pilar Nores de Garcia (Peru), Mr. Awich Pollar (Uganda), Ms. Kamla Devi Varmah (Mauritius) and Mr. Jean Zermatten (Switzerland). Elections of new members will be held during a meeting of States parties in December 2012 at the United Nations in New York.

Some current members may go for re-election and others may decide not to run again, but we have no official confirmations at the moment. New candidates from Georgia, Italy, Austria, Brazil, Honduras, Togo and the Russian Federation are likely to be nominated by their States. All the nominations will be posted on the Committee’s website in due course.

Nomination process

At the end of June 2012, the States parties to the CRC will receive a letter from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights requesting nominations for members of the Committee.

  • Nominations are usually due to be submitted by States parties to the Office of the High Commissioner by the end of August 2012 (the exact date will be posted on the Committee’s website).
  • The nine members will be elected during the States parties meeting on 18 December 2012.

The role of NGOs in the process:

In the past, NGOs have been successful in influencing the nomination of candidates at national level.

The aim is to get a few candidates (no more than 2 or 3 per region) who fulfil the criteria. It is important to avoid having too many nominees from the same region so that they do not split the votes during the first round of elections. In order to organise the process regionally, it would be good to have one organisation (or a small group of organisations) taking on this regional coordination role. If your organisation is well placed to assist with coordination at regional level, please let me know by 14 May.

Here are some steps which you can take:

  • Identify qualified candidates and approach them for their availability (please remember that there can only be one member/nominee per State party). If your country already has a member on the Committee whose term is expiring and who you support, you can also advocate for their re-election.

  • Coordinate at regional level to get a few good nominations. While the voting regions for the elections are as follows: http://www.un.org/wcm/content/site/citizenambassadors/lang/en/home/thecampaign/contest2010/regional_groups, it is important to look at representation within these regions. For instance, at present East and South-East Asia, Southern Africa, Francophone Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean are under-represented.

  • Lobby your State party to nominate a good candidate who meets the criteria below.

Criteria for nominees

Article 43(2) of the CRC states that the Committee shall consist of “eighteen experts of high moral standing and recognised competence in the field covered by the Convention”; that members of the Committee shall serve in their personal capacity; and that consideration shall be given to equitable geographical distribution and the principal legal systems. In order to get the most suitably qualified experts, we have developed the following criteria for candidates:

  • A demonstrated expertise in the field of human rights and particular commitment to respect for children’s rights

  • A variety of complementary professional backgrounds

  • Independence and impartiality

  • The ability to devote sufficient time to the work of the Committee

  • Experience working with  a broad range of stakeholders including NGOs and children

  • An awareness and sensitivity to cultural differences.

  • Fluent in at least one of the three working languages of the Committee (English, French and Spanish)

  • Experience dealing with communications/complaints from children or their representatives, either as a child victim’s representative or as part of the body or institution examining the complaints

To understand the nomination and election procedure and the role that NGOs can play in these processes in more detail, please refer to:

  • The fact-sheet about the election process l English l French l
  • A copy of the letter which we sent to the missions of your States to the United Nations in Geneva, so that they also receive the same call for strong candidates. l English l

Please circulate this information broadly and coordinate regionally to get the best candidates!

 

For additional information or if you have any questions, please contact Lisa Myers at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

Kind regards,

 

Lisa Myers
Director
NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Published in Uncategorized

 

Re: Call for submissions on child’s right to health

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) contains legally binding obligations in relation to the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health (art. 24). By virtue of its mandate, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (the CRC Committee) has decided to elaborate a General Comment on the right to health of children under eighteen.

The CRC Committee elaborates its General Comments with a view to clarifying the normative contents of specific rights provided for under the Convention on the Rights of the Child or particular themes of relevance to the Convention, as well as offer guidance about practical measures of implementation. General Comments provide interpretation and analysis of specific articles of the CRC or deal with thematic issues related to the rights of the child. General Comments constitute an authoritative interpretation as to what is expected of States parties as they implement the obligations contained in the CRC.

The General Comment on the right to health will clarify (a) the normative content of the right of the child and adolescent to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation in relation to health care services and (b) the legally binding obligations of States parties to the CRC with respect to ensuring the full realization of the child’s right to health. The General Comment will provide a conceptual framework and recommendations for concrete measures and actions required by States Parties, and non-State actors, to fulfil these obligations.

Click here to see the detailed scope and proposed structure of the General Comment.

The CRC Committee welcomes inputs on the child’s right to health, in English, French or Spanish, particularly from interested organizations and individuals who have extensive experience or information on the right to health of children under eighteen. The submissions are invited to address the following questions:

(1) What should be the basic premises for the realization of children’s right to health?
(2) How can the principles of the CRC, in particular articles 2, 3, 6 and 12, be applied to designing, implementing and monitoring interventions to address child and adolescent health challenges and what aspects are specific to a child’s rights approach to health?
(3) What is the normative content of article 24? What are the specific obligations of States under article 24? What are the responsibilities of non-state actors under article 24?
(4) What are the priority concerns in general and in particular regions of the world for the implementation of article 24?
(5) Which concrete measures should be put in place to implement article 24?

The submissions shall not address the content of Article 24.3, which will be covered by a separate joint General Comment/Recommendation currently being produced by the CRC Committee in collaboration with the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of  Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The submissions should be limited to 5 pages and sent to the following email address in Word format by no later than 6 January 2012: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . All submissions should be accompanied by a brief presentation (1 paragraph is sufficient) on the experience of the submitting individual or organization in the subject matter. The submissions received will subsequently be posted on a webpage dedicated to the General Comment. Please note that the United Nations does not offer remuneration of any kind for inputs into General Comments.

Source: Committee on the Rights of the Child

 

Published in Uncategorized
30 septembre 2011

Le Comité des droits de l'enfant a tenu, aujourd'hui, au Palais des Nations, à Genève, une journée de discussion générale sur le thème des enfants de parents détenus.

Des exposés ont été présentés par M. Abdullah Khoso, Chef du Programme national sur la justice juvénile (Pakistan); Mme Ann Skelton, Directrice du Centre pour la loi juvénile (Afrique du Sud); Mme Isabel Altenfelder Santos Bordin, Chef de la Division de psychiatrie sociale à l'Université fédérale de Sao Paulo (Brésil). Deux représentants de la jeunesse ont apporté leur témoignage à titre d'enfants de parents détenus: Mlle Sian Knott et M. Raheel Hussain.

Ouvrant le débat, le Président du Comité, M. Jean Zermatten, a souligné que la problématique des enfants dont les parents sont en prison préoccupe le Comité depuis très longtemps. Bien sûr, a-t-il poursuivi, la Convention relative aux droits de l'homme traite de cette thématique, mais la question va bien au-delà, elle concerne les relations familiales, le droit de l'enfant d'être élevé par ses deux parents et de recevoir conseil des deux parents. Cette question traite aussi de détermination de l'intérêt supérieur de l'enfant, de son droit d'être entendu, de son développement et de la non-discrimination à son égard, comme de ses conditions de vie. La Convention est basée sur l'idée du caractère primordial de la relation parents-enfant, a ajouté le Président.

Le Comité s'est ensuite scindé en deux groupes de travail distincts, consacrés, l'un, aux bébés et enfants vivant avec et visitant leur parent en détention et, l'autre, aux enfants qui ne sont pas avec leurs parents incarcérés.

Rendant compte en fin de journée des travaux du premier de ces groupes, Mme Hadeel Al-Asmar, membre du Comité, a déclaré que son groupe de travail recommandait de privilégier les mesures non privatives de liberté, c'est-à-dire des peines de substitution ou communautaires. Il faut aussi déterminer qui est responsable de la supervision des enfants en détention et il est en outre important de procéder à une réforme judiciaire adéquate en conciliant les intérêts de l'État et ceux de l'enfant. Le Comité souhaite éviter d'imposer un âge maximum pour le placement de l'enfant auprès de sa mère en détention et préconiser plutôt une fourchette d'âge et s'en remettre aux experts en la matière. Il convient aussi de lutter contre la stigmatisation sociale des enfants de parents détenus.

La rapporteuse du deuxième groupe de travail, Mme Maria Herczog, a indiqué que ce groupe s'est penché sur les différentes solutions à mettre en place pour les enfants qui ne sont pas avec leurs parents en prison, tant avant, que pendant et après leur incarcération de leurs parents. La question de la dignité et de l'intérêt supérieur de l'enfant a longuement été discutée, l'accent ayant été mis sur la nécessité d'éviter la stigmatisation dont peuvent faire l'objet les enfants dont les parents sont incarcérés. Elle a ajouté que l'attention a également été attirée sur les questions ayant trait au droit de visite de l'enfant à ses parents emprisonnés, eu égard à l'impératif de maintenir le contact de l'enfant avec ses parents. Il a aussi été souligné qu'il est important d'éviter dans toute la mesure du possible d'humilier les parents devant leurs enfants, alors que cette pratique est assez fréquente.

Concluant la discussion, Mme Yanghee Lee, Vice-Présidente du Comité, a considéré que les enfants de parents incarcérés constituent un groupe que l'on peut qualifier d'enfants oubliés, eu égard au manque de données et de méthodes pour appréhender l'ampleur des problèmes auxquels ils sont confrontés. La priorité à cet égard doit être accordée à l'intérêt supérieur de l'enfant, a-t-elle conclu.

En fin de séance, le Président du Comité, M. Zermatten, a indiqué que l'an prochain, à la fin du mois de septembre 2012, la journée annuelle de discussion générale du Comité sera consacrée au thème «les droits de l'enfant et les situations de migration».


Lundi après-midi, à 15 heures, le Comité examinera le rapport présenté par la Suède au titre du Protocole facultatif se rapportant à la vente d'enfants, la prostitution des enfants et la pornographie mettant en scène des enfants (CRC/C/OPSC/SWE/1).

Discussion générale sur le thème des enfants de parents détenus

Introduction

M. JEAN ZERMATTEN, Président du Comité, a souligné que la problématique des enfants dont les parents sont en prison préoccupe le Comité depuis très longtemps. Bien sûr, a-t-il poursuivi, la Convention relative aux droits de l'homme traite de cette thématique dans son article 9; mais cette question va bien au-delà de cet article et pose la question des relations familiales, du droit de l'enfant d'être élevé par ses deux parents et de recevoir conseil des deux. Cette question traite aussi de détermination de l'intérêt supérieur de l'enfant, de son droit d'être entendu, de son développement et de sa non-discrimination, comme de ses conditions de vie.

Comme cela est souvent rappelé, l'enfant dont les parents sont incarcérés est avant tout un enfant; et un enfant qui souffre de manière «collatérale» d'une décision qui a été prise à l'égard d'un de ses deux parents voire des deux, a poursuivi le Président. Il y a donc le problème législatif: quel cadre mettre en place au niveau national pour répondre au respect des droits de ces enfants dans cette situation particulière et faire en sorte qu'ils ne soient pas affectés par une situation qui entraîne dans la plupart des cas précarité, insécurité, rejet, honte et qui restreint leurs droits. «Mais, il y a aussi le problème humain: celui de la dignité de l'enfant, qui est amputé d'une partie de la reconnaissance de son statut et de ses besoins particuliers d'enfant en développement, surtout son droit à recevoir affection, éducation et protection de la part de ses parents et qui en est privé par une décision d'autorité, car très souvent l'incarcération d'un parent signifie aussi l'éclatement de la famille», a souligné M. Zermatten. Or, la Convention relative aux droits de l'enfant est basée sur l'idée du caractère primordial de la relation parents-enfant(s), a-t-il fait observer. Dans ce contexte, il convient de savoir comment faire pour que ces enfants puissent continuer à disposer des soins éducatifs dont ils ont besoin; comment préserver la relation avec le parent incarcéré; et comment stimuler la résilience de l'enfant.

Enfin, au-delà, se pose la question des politiques pénales et pénitentiaires des États, a ajouté le Président du Comité. «Ne doit-on pas, lorsqu'une décision de justice est prise vis-à-vis d'un parent, se poser la question de son impact sur ses enfant et penser non seulement et exclusivement à la question de la sécurité publique – que se comprend –, mais également à celle de l'intérêt supérieur de l'enfant?», s'est-il interrogé. Et lorsqu'un parent est détenu, a-t-il poursuivi, ne peut-on pas imaginer l'exécution de cette peine différemment lorsque le sort de l'enfant est en jeu? Enfin, le recours à la privation de liberté est-il toujours indispensable, s'est demandé le Président du Comité.

Panélistes

M. ABDULLAH KHOSO, Chef du Programme national sur la justice juvénile (Pakistan), a souligné que rares sont les études scientifiques menées pour évaluer les effets sociaux et psychologiques des traitements accordés et des procédures appliquées s'agissant des enfants qui accompagnent des femmes emprisonnées dans des centres de détention, pas plus qu'il n'existe de systèmes permettant d'étudier la vulnérabilité particulière de ces enfants à l'intérieur des centres de détention. Au Pakistan, en dépit des garanties constitutionnelles, ces enfants sont en fait totalement privés de leurs droits fondamentaux. Au Pakistan, l'âge maximum d'un enfant vivant dans un centre de détention (avec sa mère) varie d'une province à l'autre; en règle générale, au niveau du pays, cet âge est de six ans, mais il arrive fréquemment que ces enfants restent en prison avec leur mère au-delà de l'âge de dix ans. Parfois, les femmes détenues enceintes doivent accoucher sans avoir bénéficié de soins prénatals; certains enfants naissent de mères qui ont en fait été victimes d'abus sexuels en prison. L'éducation des enfants vivant en prison constitue un problème au niveau mondial, a poursuivi M. Khoso. Évoquant la stigmatisation dont font l'objet les enfants qui vivent en prison avec leur mère, il a souligné que nombre de ces enfants sont abandonnés par leurs pères lorsque leurs mères sont privées de liberté; personne ne vient leur rendre visite en prison.

Il faudrait donc développer un cadre législatif qui traite des questions intéressant les enfants de parents détenus et prenne en compte tous les problèmes de ces enfants à compter de l'arrestation de leur mère et/ou de leur père, en établissant des règles claires en termes de procédures et de protection applicables à ces enfants, a souligné M. Khoso. La libération sous caution du parent condamné permettrait à ces enfants de vivre en dehors de la prison, a-t-il ajouté. Quant aux gouvernements, ils devraient prendre des mesures en termes d'institutions en faveur des enfants abandonnés dont les parents sont détenus; ces institutions devraient répondre à des normes minima et être situées près des prisons, afin que des rencontres entre la mère détenue et l'enfant puissent être aisément organisées.

MME ANN SKELTON, Directrice du Centre pour la loi juvénile (Afrique du Sud) s'est penchée sur la question de savoir si tous les parents placés en détention doivent nécessairement l'être et si l'intérêt supérieur de l'enfant était pris en compte lorsque la décision de placement du parent en prison est prise. En dehors du droit de l'enfant aux soins parentaux, la Convention relative aux droits de l'enfant ne contient pas de dispositions spécifiques sur les droits des enfants de parents détenus, a fait observer Mme Skelton. La Charte africaine sur les droits et le bien-être des enfants, en revanche, comporte en son article 30 des dispositions à ce sujet, a-t-elle fait valoir. La Cour constitutionnelle d'Afrique du Sud a connu deux cas liés à cette problématique de parents devant être emprisonnés, a poursuivi Mme Skelton, avant de fournir des détails sur ces deux affaires, précisant notamment que le juge de la Cour constitutionnelle avait fait valoir l'intérêt supérieur de l'enfant. En conclusion, éviter la détention et la condamnation à une peine d'emprisonnement pour le parent ou tuteur principal de l'enfant est une stratégie de prévention que les pays devraient être encouragés à utiliser, a déclaré Mme Skelton.

MME ISABEL ALTENFELDER SANTOS BORDIN, Chef de la Division de psychiatrie sociale à l'Université fédérale de Sao Paulo (Brésil), a souligné que, selon la législation brésilienne, les unités de prison du pays doivent disposer de salles permettant aux mères d'allaiter leurs enfants jusqu'à l'âge de six mois, disposer d'une crèche et d'une salle de soins pour les enfants de six mois à six ans. En outre, tous les enfants au Brésil doivent avoir accès l'enseignement obligatoire. Généralement, les femmes emprisonnées sont abandonnées par leurs proches, y compris leurs partenaires, a souligné Mme Santos Bordin. Les enfants de mère emprisonnée sont souvent victimes de préjugés et en viennent à abandonner l'école, a-t-elle poursuivi. Elle a dénoncé la vulnérabilité et le manque de soutien dont pâtissent les femmes détenues enceintes. Le nombre de femmes détenues augmente au Brésil, essentiellement du fait de leur participation accrue au trafic de stupéfiants et les unités pour femmes sont de ce fait surpeuplées, a souligné Mme Santos Bordin. Elle s'est en outre penchée sur les facteurs de risques en termes de problèmes mentaux pour les enfants de parents détenus, sur la base d'une étude menée au Brésil à ce sujet dans une zone pauvre d'une ville de 230 000 habitants située très près de Sao Paulo. Les résultats de cette étude ont montré que 37% des enfants considérés avaient des problèmes de comportement ou des problèmes émotionnels, 11% ayant les deux types de problèmes. Il ressort de cette étude que les principaux facteurs de risque sont d'être une fille plutôt qu'un garçon et un adolescent plutôt qu'un enfant et avoir une mère souffrant d'anxiété ou de dépression, a indiqué Mme Santos Bordin. L'absence de père est un facteur spécifique pour les comportements délinquants chez les enfants, a-t-elle ajouté.

Deux représentants de la jeunesse ayant vécu ou vivant des situations relevant du thème de cette journée de discussion générale ont apporté leurs témoignages. Mlle Sian Knott a indiqué avoir 13 ans et vivre dans le nord de l'Angleterre; elle a précisé qu'elle était avec son père lorsqu'il a été arrêté et a indiqué qu'il a fallu attendre deux mois, qu'elle a trouvés très longs, avant qu'elle puisse lui rendre une première visite. Elle a indiqué que son père a été condamné en 2010 à 19 ans d'emprisonnement et, en fonction des règles en vigueur, devrait rester 9 ans et demi en prison. M. RAHEEL HUSSAIN a quant à lui indiqué avoir 17 ans et vivre à Manchester en Angleterre. Il a expliqué être ici, devant le Comité, pour apporter son témoignage afin que le système soit changé en ce qui concerne la situation des enfants de parents détenus. Il a indiqué que son père a été condamné en 2010 à 7 ans de prison. M. Hussain a également dit craindre que son père ne l'oublie.

Présentation des travaux des deux groupes de travail

Rendant compte en fin de journée des travaux du groupe de travail sur la question des bébés et enfants vivant avec et visitant leur parent en détention, MME HADEEL AL-ASMAR, membre du Comité rapporteuse de ce groupe de travail, a indiqué que le groupe avait décidé de recommander que les mesures non privatives de liberté, c'est-à-dire des peines de substitution ou communautaires, soient privilégiées. Il convient en outre de déterminer si les parents qui sont arrêtés ont des enfants et que ces enfants soient identifiés en vue de veiller à ce que leur bien-être soit assuré. Il convient en outre de tenir compte des besoins particuliers des enfants handicapés. Il faut aussi déterminer qui est responsable de la supervision des enfants arrêtés. Il est en outre important de procéder à une réforme judiciaire adéquate en conciliant les intérêts de l'État et ceux de l'enfant voire de la personne qui en a la charge. Le Comité souhaite éviter d'imposer un âge maximum pour le placement de l'enfant auprès de sa mère en détention et préconiser plutôt une fourchette d'âges et s'en remettre aux experts en la matière. Il convient en outre de se pencher sur les questions relatives aux visites, y compris pour ce qui a trait à la réconciliation de l'intérêt supérieur de l'enfant et des préoccupations liées à la sécurité dans les prisons. Il est également nécessaire de réconcilier la justice pénale et la protection de l'enfant. Il faut en outre veiller à assurer les soins pré et post-natals pour les femmes enceintes. Il convient aussi de lutter contre la stigmatisation sociale des enfants de parents détenus. Mme Al-Asmar a en outre insisté sur le droit à l'information des enfants, auxquels il arrive trop souvent que l'on mente s'agissant de la situation de leurs parents.

Rendant compte des travaux du groupe de travail sur les enfants qui ne sont pas avec leurs parents incarcérés, MME MARIA HERCZOG, membre du Comité rapporteuse de ce groupe de travail, a souligné que ce groupe s'est penché sur les différentes solutions à mettre en place pour ces enfants, tant avant, que pendant et après l'incarcération de leurs parents. À été longuement discutée la question de la dignité et de l'intérêt supérieur de l'enfant, l'accent ayant été mis sur la nécessité d'éviter la stigmatisation dont peuvent faire l'objet les enfants dont les parents sont incarcérés. Des dispositions spéciales doivent être prises pour les enfants handicapés, ainsi que pour les enfants autochtones, les enfants des minorités et les enfants étrangers, a-t-il en outre été souligné durant la discussion, a indiqué Mme Herczog. Elle a ajouté que l'attention a également été attirée sur les questions ayant trait au droit de visite de l'enfant à ses parents emprisonnés, eu égard à l'impératif de maintenir le contact de l'enfant avec ses parents; a dans ce contexte été évoquée la possibilité d'apporter une aide financière aux familles qui en ont besoin afin que de telles visites puissent avoir lieu. Il a été souligné qu'il est important d'éviter dans toute la mesure du possible d'humilier les parents devant leurs enfants, alors que cette pratique est assez fréquente; à cet égard, il a été préconisé de placer l'enfant dans une autre pièce au moment de l'arrestation de son parent, a indiqué Mme Herczog. Elle a en outre insisté sur l'importance du droit d'accès de l'enfant à l'information, notamment pour ce qui est de la situation des parents se trouvant dans les couloirs de la mort, afin que l'enfant puisse se préparer à l'exécution de son parent et avoir droit à une dernière visite et être présent lors de l'enterrement. En conclusion, Mme Herczog a insisté sur la nécessité de disposer de directives sur toutes ces questions.

Conclusion

MME Yanghee Lee, Vice-Présidente du Comité et rapporteuse pour cette journée de discussion générale, a considéré que les enfants de parents incarcérés constituent un groupe que l'on peut qualifier d'enfants oubliés, eu égard au manque de données et de méthodes pour appréhender l'ampleur des problèmes auxquels ils sont confrontés. Les raisons ne manquent pas pour conclure que les mesures privatives de liberté doivent être privilégiées pour les personnes qui ont commis un crime et qui ont un ou plusieurs enfants, a-t-elle souligné. Toute la priorité doit être accordée à l'intérêt supérieur de l'enfant, a-t-elle ajouté.

Source: OHCHR
Published in Uncategorized
30 September 2011

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today held a Day of General Discussion with regard to children of incarcerated parents. It held two workshops on babies and children living with or visiting a parent in prison, and on children left “outside” when their parent was incarcerated. The Committee concluded that children of incarcerated parents were still too often forgotten. The priority was non-custodial sentencing for parents and there was a need for reconciliation between the interest of the State and the best interest of the child.

Opening the Day of General Discussion, Jean Zermatten, Committee Chairperson, said that they would focus specifically on the criminal justice system, and due to time restraints, the issues relating to children whose parents were in other similar situations, such as immigration detention, would not be part of the scope of the discussion.

Five speakers made presentations as part of the introductory statements.

Abdullah Khoso, from the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, said that his presentation would focus on Pakistan, but that the problems evoked were also found in many other countries. In many places the rights of babies and children living with women prisoners or mothers in prisons were not respected. From the time of arrest until the release of women prisoners, the child’s best interest was not taken into consideration by policies or laws.

Ann Skelton, Director of the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria, noted that very often the child was separated from the mother. How could incarceration of parents be minimized? Did all parents who were in prison need to be there? Was the child’s best interest considered when the parents were sentenced? Non-custodial measures should be considered when pregnant women or mothers of infants were condemned. Mothers should not be imprisoned with their child, there should be no death sentence, and social rehabilitation after the sentence should be ensured.

Isabelle Altenfelder Bordin, psychiatrist working in Sao Paolo who specialized in children and adolescents, spoke of a study on young children raised in prison, including the mental health of the incarcerated population and risk factors for children’s mental health. She elaborated on a study that showed that seven per cent of incarcerated adults were women, 80 per cent of those women had children, 45 per cent of those women had mental health problems, and 26 per cent of the women had severe mental health problems. The study also showed that 37 per cent of the children aged 6-17 years with incarcerated parents had emotional or behavioural problems.

Sian Knott and Raheel Hussain, from the COPING Project (Children of Prisoners, Interventions and Mitigations to Strengthen Mental Health), shared their experience of being the child of an incarcerated parent. They highlighted the issues that they were facing and the difficulties they had undergone.

Two workshops were held during the afternoon, one on babies and children living with or visiting a parent in prison, and the second on children left “outside” when their parent was incarcerated. On the first topic, Hadeel Al-Asmar, Committee member acting as Rapporteur, highlighted various aspects such as legal counselling that should be provided for women in prison. Issues around visitation should be dealt with and the aim was to reconcile the child’s best interests and prison security concerns. Moreover, there should be institutionalized training for prison officials. Justice reform should be undertaken, ensuring that juvenile justice legislation was in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Methodology should be improved for clear statistics and data. Social stigma should be opposed and media sensitization undertaken.

On the second topic, Maria Herczog, Committee member acting as the Rapporteur for the workshop, said that three areas had been discussed: the time before, during and after imprisonment. It had been highlighted that the degree of stigmatization of the child was based on the type of offence committed by the parent and it was necessary to find solutions on how to prevent that discrimination. A best interest assessment had to be led on a case by case basis taking into consideration the views of the child. Also, special provisions should be created for indigenous children, minority children, foreign nationals and children left behind in other jurisdictions. The right to visit the parent in prison had to be respected; maintaining contact between the child and the parent was of prime importance. A further issue that needed to be addressed was that children sometimes committed crimes together with the parent or were forced to by parent(s). Good practices, such as the presence of a social worker, were identified for arrest procedures.

Yanghee Lee, Vice-President of the Committee and Committee member acting as the main Rapporteur for the Day of General Discussion, said in concluding remarks that children of incarcerated parents were still too often forgotten. The priority was non-custodial sentencing for parents. There was a need for reconciliation for the interest of the State and the best interest of the child.

General Discussion

JEAN ZERMATTEN, Committee Chairperson, said that the Day of General Discussion was focused specifically on the criminal justice system, and due to time restraints, the issues relating to children whose parents were in similar situations, such as immigration detention, would not be part of the scope of the discussion. The Convention of the Rights of the Child dealt with the issue of children with parents in custody in article 9, which expressed the right of a child to be raised by both parents. It was an important children’s rights issue and it was a direct problem of human dignity. Children had the right to receive education and affection from their parents; but that was often not possible when the parents or one of the parents was incarcerated.

Introductory Statement by a Prison Service Professional

ABDULLAH KHOSO, of Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC – associate member of Defence for Children International), said that his point of reference would be Pakistan, but that the problems evoked were also found in many other countries. In many places the rights of babies and children living with women prisoners or mothers in prisons were not respected. From the time of arrest until the release of women prisoners, accompanying children’s best interests were not taken into consideration; policies and laws did not consider them. There was little scientific and systematic research on the social and psychological impact of the treatment given and the procedures applied to children accompanying women prisoners in detention centres, nor were there any systems to record those children’s vulnerability inside detention centres. For example, except for issues of diet, pregnancy and suspension of death sentences for pregnant women, as mentioned in the Pakistan Prison Rules, there was no direct legislative provision for children with women prisoners in Pakistan.

The maximum age for children living in prisons varied widely between States. In Pakistan the children could officially stay from infancy to six years, but it was reported that there were some children who stayed up to ten years. Cases in which women had killed their husbands or relatives of their husbands could not find anyone outside to look after their children when their children reached six years, and the prison authorities tended to have a lenient vies regarding the stay of children; therefore children even of 10 years were reported to stay in prisons with their mothers.

Many prisons in many countries were overcrowded. That obviously also affected children and babies living in prison with their mother. Without clean conditions and proper health services, children were at risk of, alongside their mother, diseases such as scabies. Pregnant women may have to deliver babies in the absence of pre- and post-natal care. Human rights reports had spoken of situations where children in prisons were born to women prisoners because of sexual abuse by the prison authorities, and of mothers remaining untreated for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The most common aspect observed in prisons was that children faced loneliness and lived in isolation; they had limited access to the outside world and did not live in a natural setting; there were very few areas for walking and playing. They also faced the issue of access to education. Often, services and facilities were not provided.

There were various reasons why women prisoners kept children with them. When women were convicted and sent to jail, there was hardly anyone in the house to assume the responsibility of the child. The mother often did not have a choice but to take the child with her. Those women alleged to have killed their husbands did not have the option to leave their children outside at the mercy of other relatives. Also, many children were abandoned by their fathers when their mothers were imprisoned; and no one came to visit the children while they were with their mothers in prison. For those who did receive visits, they were weekly only, in presence of the mother and in public rooms.

Being pregnant or having a minor to look after may be a factor in a woman getting bail or probation, though the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child did not know of cases where that was the sole reason. Children who did not stay in prison with their mothers would need alternative care. There were currently no established alternative care institutions to cater to the needs of those children. However, initiatives had been taken by SOS Children’s Villages in different cities, children could be sent to an SOS Children’s Village once they turned six years of age, if their mother still had to serve more time in prison and there was no other person to look after their children. However SOS Children’s Villages did not exist everywhere and were often located far away from the prisons. It was important that children of prisoners were supported by adequate budgets, as their welfare and protection was a serious matter.

The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child had come to the following recommendations for children with mothers in prisons: a legislative framework that addressed issues of such children from the time of their mother’s and/or father’s arrest, and lay down procedures and rules for their protection, was required. There was also the need to expedite trials and strengthen the probation and bail system by making them functional. Women probation officers should be employed to monitor the conduct of the women prisoners who had minors with them; there was also the need to allocate funds for free legal aid and sureties for those poor women prisoners who could not afford them.

Releasing women on bail and probation would provide the opportunity for the child to go back to the environment in which they could grow and enjoy their fundamental rights. Governments should make institutional arrangements for abandoned children whose parents were in jails or whose mothers were ailing and unable to provide care and protection. Those institutions had to meet minimum standards, and be close to the prisons so that meetings between the mother and the child could be easily arranged.

Children whose parents were detained in another country and children whose parents were detained under the accusation of blasphemy should also be considered by that forum.

Introductory Statement by a Legal Expert

ANN SKELTON, Director of the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria, also noted that very often the child was separated from the mother. How could incarceration of parents be minimized? Did all parents who were in prison need to be there? Were the children’s best interest considered when the parents were sentenced? The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child had an extra provision, article 30, on the matter. Special treatment should be given to pregnant mothers or mothers of infants. Non-custodial measures should be considered when condemning them. Mothers should not be imprisoned with their child, there should be no death sentence, and social rehabilitation should be ensured after the sentence.

The 2007 legal case of M versus State (CCT/53/06) was a groundbreaking case in South Africa led by Judge Sachs. The woman accused (‘M’) had committed a series of frauds and was facing imprisonment. She was the primary care giver of three boys, was not married to any of their fathers and lived separately from them. The Constitutional Court asked what duties a sentencing court had to take into account the best interest of a child? The mother did not receive prison sentence; instead she had to repay the money she had stolen and do community service. The case set a precedent when sentencing a primary care giver; it was the most cited judgment and was also cited in bail proceedings (pre-trial phase). Thanks to that judgment, the trial of women in a similar condition almost always resulted in non-custodial cases. The negative point was that the sentencing did not specify gender. Another case came up, and the woman accused that time was married. Then it was said that primary care-givers should not be interpreted as the “sole” caregiver but the “main” caregiver; M versus State had to be interpreted broadly. The best interest of the child should be kept in mind at all stages of the system.

Introductory Statement by a Child Development Expert

ISABELLE ALTENFELDER BORDIN, a psychiatrist specialized in children and adolescents working in Sao Paolo, said she had led a study on young children raised in prison, the mental health of the incarcerated population, and risk factors for child’s mental health.

The 1994 Brazilian law stated that there had to be nursery rooms in prisons, as well as special sections for pregnant women and daycare for children (aged six months to six years). Regarding marital stability and childcare, the majority of incarcerated men were supported by their partners. Yet most incarcerated women were abandoned. Children had to leave the prison and their mothers once they turned seven, and were frequently sent to shelters or relatives who lived far away from the prison.

There were negative aspects for children raised in prison: pregnancies were developed in a context of vulnerability and lack of social support; birth and maternal care took place in seclusion, conditions that favoured maternal depression and drug abuse; and prisons were an adverse environment for raising children due to penitentiary rules. Yet there were also positive aspects, such as the fact that the mother-child relationship was not broken, babies were not deprived of the mother’s affection, and women benefited from the experience of caring for their babies.

The number of incarcerated women was increasing mainly due to involvement in drug trafficking. There was overcrowding of units, and there were increasing difficulties to offer an appropriate environment for children living in prisons (in matters of space, staff and costs). The study showed that seven per cent of incarcerated adults were women, 80 per cent of those women had children, 45 per cent of those women had mental health problems, and 26 per cent of the women had severe mental health problems. The study also showed that 37 per cent of the children aged 6-17 years old who had incarcerated parents had emotional or behavioural problems.

Living in prison with their mother may be beneficial to young children depending on maternal health and environmental conditions. Incarcerated women frequently suffered anxiety and depression, and many of those women were mothers. Maternal anxiety and depression was a very important risk factor for different types of child emotional and behavioural problems. The absence of a father favoured aggressive and rule-breaking behaviour among adolescents who lived in poor urban areas.

Introductory Statements by Youth Representatives

SIAN KNOTT and RAHEEL HUSSAIN, from the COPING Project (Children of Prisoners, Interventions and Mitigations to Strengthen Mental Health), shared their experience of being a child of an incarcerated parent. Sian was 13 and Raheel was 17; they were both from the United Kingdom.

Sian said that she used to spend a lot of time with her dad before he was arrested, they were very close. She was there when he was arrested, and she was only eight years old; it was very sudden and unexpected. Two months went by between the moment her dad was arrested and the first visit, which was very long time.

Raheel said that they were both at the meeting to inspire change in the prison system, using experience from other children as well as their own. When his father was arrested, he was first released on bail for two years, which was a very nerve-racking experience because Raheel knew his dad could be taken away anytime.

Sian’s dad was sentenced in 2006 to 19 years in prison but he was actually going to serve nine and a half years. It was his fifth prison sentence, and he and the family had had to adapt to different rules every time he had moved.

The adolescents explained that being a child of a prisoner, there were many questions that constantly came back to their mind: why did the prison staff not treat them like human beings? Why could there be no private visits? It was difficult to talk when other people were around. Why was there no financial help; Sian’s mother for example could not work and they had no money; why was there no support group set up for children of imprisoned parents; all those children wanted was a friend; and why could they only see their dad only once a month; they were worried that their dad would forget them.

They highlighted that small changes can have a big impact: sofas had been installed in the prison, for example, in the room where visits took place, which was much better. There needed to be more changes similar to that one.

They also noted that children in that situation needed to fight isolation, get information about how to cope, and needed inspiration – they should get involved in non-governmental organizations that could help them deal with their situation.

Work Shop on Children Living with or Visiting a Parent in Prison

On the topic of babies and children living with or visiting a parent in prison, HADEEL AL-ASMAR, Committee Member acting as Rapporteur, made a comprehensive summary of what had been said during the workshop. First, a minimum and maximum age limit should be defined for children in prisons. Special needs for disabled children should be taken care of and services for pregnant and lactating women (pre-natal and post-natal care) should be provided. Also, non-custodial measures should be a priority (including pre-trial sentencing) and alternatives and community-based initiatives should be promoted (with legislative frameworks that included conditional convictions). On the topic of statutory responsibility, it should be defined who would be responsible for overseeing those children. There were concerns about the coordination between the different ministries. In addition, legal counselling should be provided for women in prison. Issues around visitation should be dealt with and the aim was to reconcile the child’s best interests and prison security concerns.

Moreover, there should be institutionalized training for prison officials. Justice reform should be undertaken, ensuring that juvenile justice legislation was in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Methodology should be improved for clear statistics and data. Social stigma should be opposed and media sensitization undertaken. The research and initiatives at the national, regional and global levels should be improved and deepened. Issues about nationality, birth registration and civil rights were also important and had to be resolved. The right to information of the child had to be respected and the focus on the reintegration process was also crucial.

Workshop on Children Left Outside When Their Parent Was Incarcerated

On the topic of children left “outside” when their parent was incarcerated, MARIA HERCZOG, Committee member acting as the Rapporteur for the workshop, said that three areas had been discussed, the time before, during and after imprisonment. It had been highlighted that the degree of stigmatization of the child was based on the type of offence committed by the parent and it was necessary to find solutions on how to prevent the discrimination. A best interest assessment had to be led on a case by case basis taking into consideration the views of the child. Also, special provisions should be created for indigenous children, minority children, foreign nationals and children left behind in other jurisdictions.

The right to visit the parent in prison had to be respected; maintaining contact between the child and the parent was of prime importance. A further issue was that children sometimes committed crimes together with the parent or were forced by parent(s); it needed to be addressed. Good practices were identified for arrest procedures, such as the presence of a social worker. Humiliation of the parent in front of the child had to be avoided – placing the child in another room for the time of the arrest was necessary.

Also, children of incarcerated parents were seen as juvenile justice cases (such as in India), but did children who needed care and protection really belong to the juvenile justice system? A further issue concerned the custody rights of incarcerated parents and their right to designate a carer for their child.

On the topic of the right to be heard and the right to information, children should be included in the development of protocols and guidelines for the judiciary and the police. Children of an incarcerated parent should be given information, regardless of whether they were present or not during the time of incarceration. Information should also be available through services outside the prison system.

Regarding age-appropriate intervention, there should be specific measures on whether the child was, for example, disabled or an adolescent. On institution and decision-making, police protocols were needed for when parents were arrested in the presence of the child. Child protection services should be present throughout the whole process of arrest. Unfortunately, there was a lack of data and research on children of incarcerated parents. There was a need for community research for community-specific action, such as in Uganda. Sometimes, the issue was that children were only identified if they were present at the time of arrest, as in the United Kingdom.

With regard to capacity-building, education and awareness-raising on the rights of children and parents should be undertaken. Members of the courts should be trained, as well as prisons and detention centre staff.

Concluding Remarks

YANGHEE LEE, Vice-President of the Committee and Committee member acting as the main Rapporteur for the Day of General Discussion, said in concluding remarks that children of incarcerated parents were still too often forgotten. The priority was non-custodial sentencing for parents. There was a need for reconciliation between the interest of the State and the best interest of the child. She thanked all the people and organizations that participated in the Day of General Discussion.

JEAN ZERMATTEN, Committee Chairperson, thanked again the two adolescents who had participated in the discussion and mentioned that the next Day of General Discussion would take place in the last week of September 2012.

Source: OHCHR
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