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Turning research into action to eliminate torture and ill-treatment of children in detention

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, 21 September 2012 —The Kyrgyz Parliament and Government are hosting 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 including running 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.


These include:

  • increased attention to developing and implementing measures for diverting children out of the formal justice system; 
  • ensuring that independent inspections and monitoring of detention facilities by qualified bodies takes place on a regular basis, at times unannounced, with full access to the facilities and freedom to interview children and staff in private; and
  • law enforcement personnel and all those who work in facilities where children are detained should be specialized and properly trained in child protection and child rights.

Sasykbaeva Asiya, the Vice Speaker of the Kyrgyz Parliament noted, “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, said: “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.”

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 develop action plans to put the recommendations into practice. Children`s voices are embedded in the project through a series of video workshops which was held to include their views. Representatives of children reporters were also present at the meeting.

The conference will be streamed live from here:

For further information, please contact:

UNICEF in Bishkek
Galina Solodunova
Tel: + 996 775 58 02 61

UNICEF in Geneva
Lely Djuhari
Tel: +41 22 9095433

PRI in Central Asia
Saule Mektepbayeva
Tel: +7 7778132247

PRI in London
Harriet Lowe
Tel: +44 20 7247 6515

Notes for editors

UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence and exploitation and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF in this region and its work visit:

Penal Reform International is an international non-governmental organisation working on penal and criminal justice reform worldwide. Its Justice for Children programme focuses on diverting children from the adult justice system, promoting alternative sanctions to imprisonment and, where imprisonment is used, improving conditions of detention. As part of a programme of work supported by the UK Department for International Development, PRI is currently developing a body of research into violence against children in the criminal justice system around the world, including a set of baseline studies on legislation and policy in Bangladesh, Georgia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tanzania and Georgia.  Together with an overview report (in English and Russian), these country reports are available to download from Penal Reform International’s website:



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