Anti-Torture Group Publishes 18 Country Reports on Child Rights

World Organisation Against Torture (Geneva), press release, 27 June 2003

Geneva—The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) publishes 18 country reports on the rights of the child in Ethiopia, Egypt, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Turkey, Guatemala, Paraguay, Cameroon, Kenya, Bahrain, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Argentina, Sudan, the Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Haiti and Italy

Since 2001, in partnership with local NGOs and members of the OMCT network, and supported by the European Commission Democracy Programme, Misereor, and the Fondation de France, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) has produced 18 alternative country reports presented to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, now available to the public in English, French and Spanish. Leon H. Sullivan Summit

The goal of these reports is to highlight the deficiencies or the improvements of national legislation regarding the international commitments made by governments in protecting the rights of the child, as well as to denounce practices contrary to these commitments. These reports were presented orally before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and widely circulated.

Several of these reports showed that the practice of torture and other ill treatment against children, often in police stations or detention centres, remains all too frequent. OMCT denounced practices such as sexual abuse, blows to sensitive parts of the body, cigarette burns, keeping children standing in the hot sun, food and sleep deprivation, as well as placing them in solitary confinement. Moreover, OMCT also denounced the inhuman conditions of detention in which many children are held. They are often detained with adults and are kept in overcrowded establishments where sanitary conditions are often disastrous, access to basic care very limited or non-existent, and education, protection and rehabilitation opportunities rarely provided.

Several reports also showed that children's vulnerability to torture and ill treatment increases when children belong to groups that are marginalised either economically or socially or to minorities: for example, street children in Guatemala and Honduras, Kurdish children in Turkey and children belonging to the Shiite minority in Bahrain.

In some instances, state of emergency as well as exceptional state security measures have paved the way for abuses of power, arbitrary arrests and detention of children (Turkey), or even disappearances and summary executions in the worst cases (Cameroon).

Gender discrimination is another major cause of torture and violence against children that OMCT reports highlighted. The situation of girls is particularly worrying in that they are more frequently exposed to attacks on their physical and psychological integrity than boys. Female genital mutilation has long been considered a traditional practice not directly involving the international human rights defence mechanisms. Nonetheless, this situation has begun to change over the last few years and it is now more widely agreed that these mutilations may in some cases be deemed tantamount to torture. OMCT focused on this practice in its reports on countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Kenya.

The administration of corporal punishment on children in detention, in school or within the family is still widely tolerated in certain cultures. The administration of blows resulting in death in schools was reported in Kenya, and sentencing to corporal punishment is still legal in detention centres in Ethiopia.

Trafficking in children for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labour is also an extremely worrying phenomenon that OMCT has noted in several of its reports. Ukraine and the Czech Republic, for example, are major source or transit countries for this inhuman trade. OMCT also denounced the attitude of authorities in certain destination countries, such as Italy, which tend to treat these children as illegal immigrants rather than as the victims of serious abuse.

In Spain, OMCT condemned the arrest and arbitrary expulsion of street children of Moroccan origin in Ceuta and Melilla. In Switzerland, OMCT denounced the possibility of placing in administrative custody juvenile asylum seekers over the age of 15, whose request has been rejected.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has, on several occasions, expressed and appreciated the usefulness and accuracy of the information submitted by OMCT, and taken into account the recommendations proposed. The drafting of the report in partnership with OMCT's members has been instrumental in fostering follow-up of the recommendations at national level. The reports have as well been transmitted to the other relevant international and regional human rights mechanisms that acted as multipliers.

Each of the reports ends with OMCT conclusions and recommendations intended as tools for the treaty bodies, States, human rights NGOs, child rights organisations, members and non-members of the OMCT SOS-Torture network and anyone concerned by the rights of the child at all levels. They also include the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.