“When Marta Santos Pais in her function as chair of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force inquired in late summer 2016 whether I would be interested to lead the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, many memories from my time as UN Special Rapporteur on Torture came to the forefront of my mind once more. During the six years of my mandate between 2004 and 2010, I had carried out 18 official fact-finding missions to a broad variety of States in all world regions. Since torture usually takes place behind closed doors, I had used most of my time on mission to carry out unannounced visits to hundreds of places of detention where we conducted confidential interviews with thousands of detainees. I am very grateful to the Governments of these 18 States, for not only inviting me to visit their countries, but also for accepting methods of independent fact-finding. This allowed me to gather a deep insight into the reality of life behind bars.
During these missions, I became witness of unthinkable misery and true suffering. Most difficult to bear was to witness what children behind bars have to endure in many countries of the world. I notably visited and interviewed children in various types of detention facilities, ranging from orphanages to adult prisons. Due to what I discovered during these visits and interviews, I dedicated a section of my 2009 interim report to the General Assembly to ‘children in detention’. The situation children face in detention today is as pertinent as it was back during my fact-finding missions. Children deprived of liberty remain particularly vulnerable. Many children fall victim to multiple forms of discrimination due to the fact that they come from poor socio-economic backgrounds, belong to a minority or indigenous group, have a physical or mental impairment or are part of the LGBTI community. Life in prisons and other places of detention usually also follows an invisible social hierarchy, whereby default children find themselves at the bottom (together with other marginalised groups).”