The United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty

The United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty
Manfred Nowak | United Nations | 2019

“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).”

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