If you know of other individuals/organisations in your State who are already involved in advocacy against inhuman sentencing, consider calling, or encouraging others to call, an initial meeting.
An initial meeting in your State could discuss the following:
1. How to make inhuman sentencing of children more visible
Once visible, advocacy to have it prohibited should become easier. Review existing information on the use of inhuman sentencing:
- Are there any published statistics on sentencing of children?
- Which ministries or departments of government are responsible?
- Where does inhuman sentencing take place: which courts have powers to sentence children?
- In which institutions are children threatened with inhuman sentencing and held pre-trial?
- Where are executions carried out?
- Where are children who are sentenced to life imprisonment held?
- Where are sentences of corporal punishment carried out?
If the answers are not known, how can this information be found:
Letters to relevant government ministers and officials.
Parliamentary questions: All parliaments/legislative assemblies have procedures allowing members to ask questions of ministers. If you do not know which members will be prepared to ask questions about this issue, you could consider checking through reports of parliament. The parliamentary library may be able to help you with identifying interested members or finding reports of previous relevant debates.
Encouraging parliamentary inquiries: In most parliaments there are specialist committees of members, on justice issues, children’s issues, human rights. Consider writing to the chair of relevant Committees proposing an inquiry or other action on inhuman sentencing of children.
Are there national research or statistical bodies or academic institutions which may have information on inhuman sentencing?
- Have you tried an internet search for media coverage of inhuman sentencing?
- Are there contacts working on national newspapers who could search for relevant coverage?
- Are there crime reporters or court reporters or news agencies who could be contacted for information?
Professionals and others involved
Various adults will be involved in the process leading up to inhuman sentencing: police, social workers, defence lawyers, court officials and those involved directly in detaining children pre and post-trial, including governors, administrators, prison officers/wardens, any inspectors or prison visitors, etc.
- Are there associations or unions through which any of these people could be contacted and asked for information, or other ways of contacting them individually?
Judges and/or magistrates and court clerks and officials will be involved in the sentencing.
- Are there ways of contacting them (or recently retired people) for information? Doctors will be involved in the examination of children prior to or during inhuman sentencing. Read more on involvment of medical practitioners in inhuman sentencing.
It is very important to try to get early warning of court cases likely to end in inhuman sentencing of children: will any of these or other groups help with this?
It is very important to get details of individual cases of inhuman sentencing, both to provide material for advocacy and to identify individual victims who might be interested in legal action to challenge inhuman sentencing. If you need more details on legal actions, please email us.
Are there ways of contacting parents or friends of children who are or may become victims of inhuman sentencing: for example handing out leaflets outside prisons or detention centres where children are known to be held, on visiting days; systematically contacting lawyers who act in defence of children in the relevant courts.
2. Which organisations and individuals should be involved in a national campaign; who should lead/coordinate
Challenging inhuman sentencing may be more effective if an alliance of concerned organisations/individuals can be formed. The alliance could be developed by circulating a position statement for organisations/individuals to sign up to.
Draft position statement
An alliance to end inhuman sentencing of children
Sentencing children to death, to life imprisonment and to corporal punishment has been consistently denounced as a violation of human rights by United Nations Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures, and by regional human rights mechanisms. The UN Study on Violence Against Children of 2006 further reiterated States’ obligations to end these inhuman forms of sentencing of children.
We understand that in [name of State] legislation still authorises sentencing of children, in some circumstances to [details of forms of inhuman sentencing believed to be still authorised].
We the undersigned call on our government and parliament [other authorities] to immediately cease these practices which are in conflict with [name of State]'s human rights obligations and use the earliest opportunity to remove any authorisation of such punishment.
Safety tip: In States where this sort of collective action may put individuals or organisations at risk, consider discussing with us what forms of regional or international pressure may be possible to challenge inhuman sentencing of children. Please email us.
These are categories of organisations that could be invited to join the Alliance:
- NGOs working on children’s rights or children’s issues
- International NGOs working on children’s rights or children’s issues
- Relevant UN agencies working in the State – UNICEF, OHCHR, UNODC, etc.
- National human rights and ombudspersons institutions
- Human rights, justice and equality organisations
- Penal reform organisations
- Faith groups
- Child and youth groups
- Academic or educational organisations (universities, schools, etc.)
- Professional associations, such as medical practioners or paediatricians, unions, associations of legal professionals, unions, etc.
And sympathetic prominent individuals could be invited to join, for example:
- Respected media commentators
- Actors, artists, musicians
- Sports figures
- Religious leaders
- Traditional/community leaders
3. How to ensure that all those involved in inhuman sentencing and in the carrying out of the sentences know that there are human rights obligations to protect children from them
Safety tip: If disseminating this information in the State could place individuals or organisations at risk, discuss with us whether there are ways of disseminating information from international organisations. Please email us.
Letters or a short leaflet could be prepared and distributed to all those identified above as involved in inhuman sentencing. They should go to relevant ministers and officials in government and to parliamentarians as well.
- Example of model letter
- Examples of national campaigns: Pakistan and United Sates
- Paper on human rights standards in inhuman sentencing
4. How to maximise pressure from international and regional human rights mechanisms
If there are existing recommendations to prohibit and end inhuman sentencing from Treaty Bodies or the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR), etc. (see State reports for details), have they been effectively used to encourage the government/parliament to take action? What more can be done?
Checklist of possible actions
- Form an alliance within your country
- Draft a position paper
- Lobby your government to have the issue of inhuman sentences on their agenda
- Identify individuals within the government/parliament who will support the campaign
- Organise a press conference to launch your campaign and invite representatives from the media, civil society and the government
- Submit an alternative report to the different Treaty Bodies of the UN
- Follow up on the recommendations made by the Treaty Bodies to prohibit and end inhuman sentencing.
Using the United Nations mechanisms
The below checklist gives general information on the treaty bodies you could report to and the relevant articles that you can use for your advocacy. For more details see Human Rights Standards in Inhuman Sentencing.
The Treaty Bodies of the United Nations are committees composed of independent experts. They are responsible for monitoring how 'States parties' (i.e. those States that have ratified the treaty in question) implement the treaty. Read more about treaty bodies.
When a country ratifies one of these treaties, it assumes a legal obligation to implement the rights recognised in that treaty. At the same time NGOs can submit 'alternative reports' to monitor the progress made by the State regarding each treaty. See our guides on the UN and international human rights systems.
Committee on the Rights of the Child
Relevant articles when reporting on inhuman sentences:
- Article 1 - Definition of a child
- Article 3 - Best interest of the child
- Article 6 - Survival and development
- Article 37 - Torture and deprivation of liberty
- Article 19 - Protection from abuse and neglect
Committee Against Torture (CAT)
The Committee Against Torture monitors the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. States must report initially one year after acceding to the Convention and subsequently every four years. NGOs may submit reports three months before the review. The CAT may consider individual communications relating to States Parties who have made the necessary declaration under article 22 of CAT. The Convention gives a clear definition of torture, and specifies measures States must take to prevent torture from occurring.
Human Rights Committee (HRC)
The Human Rights Committee monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its State Parties. States must report initially one year after acceding to the Covenant and subsequently whenever the Committee requests so (usually every four years). The First Optional Protocol to the Covenant gives the Committee competence to examine individual complaints with regard to alleged violations of the Covenant by States Parties to the Protocol.
Relevant articles when reporting on inhuman sentences:
- Article 6 - on sentencing children to the death penalty
- Article 7 - on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
The Universal Periodic Review is a process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years. Six to eight months before the review, NGOs can submit alternative reports on the general human rights situation in the country.