First Jean-Jacques Gautier NPM Symposium on children in detention

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The risks faced by children when they are deprived of their liberty and the key role played by National Preventive Mechanisms in addressing children’s vulnerabilities in detention – these were the issues in focus when the APT organised the first Jean-Jacques Gautier NPM Symposium in Geneva, on 26-27 June.

The first day of the meeting was a unique opportunity to build bridges between NPMs and relevant actors working on children’s rights. The 25 participants included representatives of National Preventive Mechanisms from 14 countries, experts from the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), UNICEF, representatives of child rights NGOs and national authorities.

Participants stressed the need for National Preventive Mechanisms to advocate with national authorities to ensure that children are deprived of their liberty only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. NPMs should also advocate for alternatives to detention.

When deprived of their liberty, children are at greater risk of experiencing abuse and ill-treatment, from the moment of apprehension by the police, during pre-trial detention and afterwards.  Participants at the Symposium examined the risks linked to the tendency to overemphasize disciplinary and security measures, and discussed the damaging effects of detention on children’s well-being and development. Special attention was also given to the specific risks faced by the most vulnerable children in detention, in particular girls and children with mental health problems.

The second day was dedicated entirely to the exchange of practices between NPMs, reaffirming the value of interaction between these preventive actors.

A report from the meeting will be published in the following months.