PRI publishes new research into violence against children in juvenile justice settings in eight countries
PRI has published new research examining law and policy in relation to violence against children in particular during arrest and in pre-trial detention in eight countries (Bangladesh, Georgia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Tanzania and Uganda).
There are estimated to be over one million children in detention around the world, the vast majority detained for non-violent offences, such as running away from home, truancy and alcohol use. Some are imprisoned for stealing food, or for vagrancy, which many poor children are forced to do simply to survive. In many countries, the majority of children in detention have not been convicted of a crime, but are simply awaiting trial, and can be detained without trial or legal assistance for months or even years.
Whilst in the criminal justice process, children can be subjected to violence and abuse from police during arrest and in police custody, and in detention institutions from staff and from fellow detainees. In some countries corporal punishment can be given as a court sentence against children, and in many countries, corporal and other violent forms of punishment are accepted as legal in penal institutions. Detention of children with adults is routine, and this puts children at increased risk of violence and abuse.
In many countries, there are laws and policies to promote detention as a last resort for children, and to protect children in juvenile justice settings, for example a time-limit on police detention and separation of children from adults in police custody. In practice however, there is often a lack of support or resources to implement these and they are not enforced.
Evidence of violence against children in detention was found in all eight countries looked at for this research, and the reports make significant recommendations for reform, including the following:
- For all eight countries, a comprehensive law and policy to reform justice for children should be developed and implemented that addresses all elements of the system from prevention of crime through to reintegration. In this regard, PRI would strongly advocate for the 10 point Plan for Fair and Effective Criminal Justice for Children to be promoted, discussed and implemented.
- The age of criminal responsibility should be raised as high as possible, and no lower than 12, in Bangladesh, Jordan, Pakistan and Tanzania. In all countries, proper age determination procedures should be established and implemented in police stations and within court systems. Ensuring proper birth registration of all children will also help keep children out of detention.
- There should be increased attention paid to developing and implementing measures for diverting children out of the formal justice system through the use of police cautions, mediation and alternative dispute resolutions; with training provided to police and prosecutors and judges involved in the development of such measures to ensure effective implementation.
- Independent inspections and monitoring of detention facilities by qualified bodies should take place on a regular basis, at times unannounced, giving inspectors full access to the facilities and freedom to interview children and staff in private. In this context it is recommended that Bangladesh, Jordan, Pakistan, Russia, Tanzania and Uganda take steps to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on Torture (OPCAT).
This research was discussed at an international conference this week in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, held jointly with UNICEF, with support from the European Union, the Department of International Development and the British Embassy in Bishkek. After the conference, PRI will be working together with its partners to initiate individual country actions plans, as well as further measures at the global level to reduce and eliminate violence against children in justice systems.
A full set of recommendations for each of the eight countries are available in the reports: