Turning research into action to eliminate torture and ill-treatment of children in detention
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, 21 September2012 —The Kyrgyz Parliament and Government arehosting an international conference today to reduce violence against children in conflict with the law with the support of The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Penal Reform International (PRI).
Globally, the vast majority of children are detained for non-violent crimes includingrunning away from home, truancy and alcohol use. Some kids are imprisoned for stealing mobile phones or bread or vagrancy which many poor children are forced to do simply to survive. Many countries have laws to detain children only as last resort but lack support to put this into practice. There are also countries that do not ensure children are fully reintegrated into the society upon release.
Alternatives to detention, like community-based responses, are cheaper and better for children`s well-being and development. They will be better reintegrated into society when leaving detention. They reoffend fewer times. They have greater chances of breaking out of the cycle of poverty and endure fewer violations of other rights.
The conference is supported by the European Union and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the British Embassy in Bishkek, and will bring together experts from around the world, together with participants from approximately 14 countries including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Georgia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Tanzania, and Ukraine.
Both UNICEF, as part of a project co-funded by the European Union, and PRI, as part of a project supported by DFID, have conducted research examining violence against children in juvenile justice settings.This is the second conference in a three-year project to end ill treatment and torture of children in conflict with the law. The first conference in October 2011 was held in Ukraine to agree on common research plans and monitoring tools. The final conference to present the recommendations to the government will be in Brussels in 2013. The conference will provide a platform on discussion of the findings of research and an opportunity to developaction plans to putthe recommendations into practice.
SasykbaevaAsiya, the Vice Speaker of the Kyrgyz Parliament notes, “We acknowledge the need for an efficient government policy on child protection. The cruel repressive system in regards to children in conflict with the law is widespread and undermines trust of the population to the government structures. The state institutes called to protect human rights often discredit the Government. But, today, we are promoting comprehensive reforms in all the areas including child protection. By enlarging the practice of public hearings and promoting open discussions of urgent issues, we are seeking for new approaches to solve problems of our young people.”
"This work is central to UNICEF's focus on promoting equity. Children who are detained - but particularly poor children or those from minority families - risk facing ill treatment and even torture from those who should be extending a supporting hand," said Jean Claude Legrand, UNICEF Senior Child Protection Advisor for the Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. "Children who are locked up in police cells, juvenile detention centres and prisons are easy prey. They are far from the eyes and ears of their family, community and from Governments’ and civil society’s oversight. Their chances of reintegration into society are also greatly jeopardized so they remain on the fringes of society. We hope that the conference, and the work before and after, will contribute to ending this exclusion and restore them as full-fledged citizens," he said.
PRI Executive Director, Alison Hannah, says: “Violence against children who are deprived of their liberty is a severe violation of children’s rights, which is frequently invisible, under-researched and underreported. PRI’s current campaign aims to increase the understanding of the specific legal and policy measures that can work to prevent and remedy violence against children in detention in eight countries around the world. We are pleased that this high-level conference, organised jointly with UNICEF, is able to highlight key recommendations and important next steps for action to reduce and ultimately eliminate violence against children within juvenile justice settings.”