Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty

Children – Liberty, Rights

Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty
November 2019 :: 789 pages
PDF of Full Study:
Manfred Nowak, Independent Expert

United Nations High Level Interagency Task Force (UNITF)
Najat MAALLA M’JID – The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children
Virginia GAMBA – The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)
The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
The World Health Organization (WHO)
The International Organization for Migration (IOM)


Press Release
United Nations Task Force calls on Member States to end children’s deprivation of liberty
Geneva/ New York – October 8 – The United Nations Task Force supporting the Global
Study on Children Deprived of Liberty calls on Member States to put an end to children’s
deprivation of liberty, following the submission and presentation of a report by the
Independent Expert to the UN General Assembly.

The Independent Expert’s report highlights that while this year marks the 30th anniversary of
the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a landmark treaty aiming at
promoting and protecting the rights of children’s worldwide, countless children still suffer
violations of their basic human rights. The UN Task Force further notes that in adopting the
2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Member States made a clear commitment to
leave no child behind and yet, children deprived of liberty continue to be one of the most
vulnerable, invisible and forgotten groups in societies across the globe. The UN Task Force
joins the Independent Expert in calling on States to end the deprivation of liberty of children
or those at most risk as a matter of urgency. The Task Force emphasizes that it is indeed
time to put the most vulnerable first.

Children around the world are deprived of their liberty in closed institutions, psychiatric
centres or detention facilities, sometimes together with adults. Furthermore, children are
detained for national security, armed conflict or migration-related reasons. They are denied
family care and access to justice, often unable to challenge the legality of their detention.

These children are exposed to further human rights violations, enduring cruel, inhumane
and/or degrading conditions. Furthermore, they are often denied the right to education,
and health care, and do not benefit from tailored and long-term rehabilitation and
reintegration support. Deprivation of liberty has a destructive impact on children’s physical
and mental development, and often compounds trauma they have suffered.

The UN Task Force believes that the presentation of the report creates a unique momentum
to learn from children and Member States’ experiences. The UN Task Force member
organizations express their strong commitment to work together with Member States, civil
society and children themselves to end children’s deprivation of liberty and safeguard their
rights as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international
standards, and further re-affirmed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In December 2014 the United Nations General Assembly (A/RES/69/157, paragraph 52d)
invited the UN Secretary-General to commission an in-depth global study on children
deprived of liberty. In October 2016, Professor Manfred Nowak was designated as the
Independent Expert to lead the Global Study development. The Independent Expert
submitted his final report on the Study (A/74/136) to the General Assembly during its
seventy-fourth session and presents his main findings, conclusions and recommendations to
the Third Committee of the General Assembly on 8 October 2019.


UNGA – A/74/136
Promotion and protection of the rights of children
11 July 2019
A. General recommendations [p.18]
98. The Independent Expert strongly recommends that States make all efforts to significantly reduce the number of children held in places of detention and prevent deprivation of liberty before it occurs, including addressing the root causes and pathways leading to deprivation of liberty in a systemic and holistic manner.

99. To address the root causes of deprivation of liberty of children, States should invest significant resources to reduce inequalities and support families to empower them to foster the physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development of their children, including children with disabilities.

100. In all decisions that may lead to the detention of children, the Independent Expert calls upon States to most rigorously apply the requirement of article 37 (b) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that deprivation of liberty shall be applied only as a measure of last resort in exceptional cases, and that the views of children shall be heard and taken duly into account.

101. The Independent Expert calls upon States to repeal all laws and policies that permit the deprivation of liberty of children on the basis of an actual, or perceived, impairment.

102. If detention is unavoidable under the particular circumstances of a case, it shall be applied only for the shortest appropriate period of time. States have an obligation to apply child-friendly conditions, without any discrimination. Children shall not be exposed to neglect, violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, ill-treatment, torture and inhuman conditions of detention. States should ensure that children have access to essential services aimed at their rehabilitation and reintegration into society, including education, vocational training, family contacts, sports and recreation, adequate nutrition, housing and health care. Health services in detention shall be of a standard equivalent to that available in the community at large.

103. Since children have the right under article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to actively participate in all matters directly affecting their lives, they shall be empowered to influence decisions relating to their treatment and enjoyment of such essential services and have the right to effective remedies, as well as to lodge complaints to an independent and impartial authority on any grievances and human rights violations during detention. Furthermore, States are strongly encouraged to ratify the third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure, enabling children to further seek redress for violations of their rights.

104. States are strongly encouraged to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and to establish independent and effective national preventive mechanisms with a particular expertise, to conduct visits to places where
children are, or may be, deprived of liberty.

105. States should enhance the capacity, by means of investing in human resources, awareness-raising and systematic education and training, of all professionals who work with and for children in decisions leading to their deprivation of liberty, and those who are responsible for their well -being while in detention. This applies to the police, judges, prosecutors, prison guards, psychiatrists, medical personnel, psychologists, educators, probation officers, social workers, child protection and welfare officers, asylum and migration personnel and any other individuals in contact with children at risk of
deprivation, or deprived, of liberty.

106. States are strongly encouraged to establish an appropriate system of data collection at the national level, involving all relevant ministries and other State agencies, coordinated by a focal point. Whenever possible, data on children should be obtained directly from them in accordance with the principle of informed consent and self-identification. When necessary, such information should be supplemented by data concerning their parents or primary caregivers.