In this issue:
Latest news and reports
- Sexual abuse and exploitation
- Right to education
- Civil and political rights
- Migrant and refugee children
Case study: Care leavers’ fight for redress for historical abuse
LATEST NEWS AND REPORTS
Sexual abuse and exploitation
The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court has acquitted former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including against a number of child victims, after an appeal against a ruling by the same court. Judges reversed a March 2016 judgment which had concluded that, as a person effectively acting as a military commander, Bemba was criminally responsible for the murder, rape and pillaging committed by his troops in the Central African Republic between October 2002 and March 2003. After considering the written and oral arguments, the Appeals Chamber found that the previous ICC decision made errors in two important areas. The court erroneously convicted Bemba for specific criminal acts that were outside the scope of the charges as confirmed and, second, the Trial Chamber made serious errors in its assessment of whether Bemba took all necessary and reasonable measures to prevent and repress other crimes being committed by his subordinates, or to submit the matter to the competent authorities. Bemba remains in detention on separate charges, related to corruptly influencing defence witnesses and soliciting their false testimonies.
Adults looking to traffick or sexually abuse children are more likely to be from the same country or region, rather than those visiting a country, experts have said at International Summit on Child Protection in Travel and Tourism. Speaking in Colombia, anti-trafficking experts said the typical image of a sexual predator as a white, wealthy middle-aged man from a western country is no longer accurate, as business travellers, migrant workers and local tourists are increasingly fuelling the demand for trafficked children. Researchers added that this form of child sexual exploitation has been fuelled by cheap travel, the internet and mobile technology that gives predators ways to find vulnerable children while remaining anonymous. Karen Abudinen, head of Colombia's child protection agency called people who turn a blind eye to children being sexually exploited "accomplices", urging those familiar with sex tourism hot spots — from hotel receptionists to bus and taxi drivers — to report any crimes they witness.
The United Kingdom’s public prosecution agency for criminal investigations, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), has been fined £325,000 after it lost unencrypted DVDs containing recordings of police interviews, including videos of child victims of sexual abuse. The DVDs contained recordings of interviews with 15 victims of child sex abuse to be used at the trial, and contained “sensitive details” related to their cases. The penalty is the second imposed by the country’s Information Commissioner over the CPS losing such materials. The DVDs were sent by tracked delivery between two CPS offices, with the recipient office being in a shared building. The delivery was made outside of office hours, and the DVDs, which were not in tamper-proof packaging, were left in the reception. The DVDs were sent in November 2016, but it was not discovered that they were lost until December of that year. The CPS notified the victims in March 2017, and reported the loss to the ICO the following month — it is still not known what has happened to the DVDs. The ICO ruled that the CPS was negligent when it failed to ensure the videos were kept safe, and did not take into account the substantial distress that would be caused if the videos were lost.
Right to education
The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has condemned the use of aid money for private education run by a multinational company. The union lamented that £3.45 million of aid money from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), through the Developing Effective Private Education in Nigeria (DEEPEN) programme, was used to establish Bridge International Academics (BIA). The union’s President, Michael Alogba Olukoya, said: “Bridge is on average more expensive for parents, uses unqualified staff, has low standards for staff training and is less concerned about inclusiveness and equality than others”. The union is calling for increased investment in public education to ensure access for all school-aged children irrespective of socio-economic status. Meanwhile the World Bank’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, which investigates complaints by people affected by funding projects has accepted a complaint by human rights organisations on its investment in BIA in Kenya, which has over 400 schools in the country. The majority lack legal registration and the company has faced complaints of failure to meet national standards for education, health and safety, and labour. The complaint claims the World Bank’s funding is not compliant with human rights law or even its own investment standards.
In Afghanistan almost 3.7 million children are out of school because of ongoing conflict, poverty, and discrimination against girls, UNICEF has said in a new report. The figure represents almost half of all Afghan children aged between seven and 17, and marks the first time that the out-of-school rate has increased since 2002. Girls account for 60 percent of those not receiving a school education, according to the study. In some provinces, up to 85 percent of girls are not attending school. Dropout rates, however, are low, with 85 percent of boys and girls who start at the primary level staying in school to complete all grades, and the figures are even higher for those who begin at the secondary-school level. In a country with the presence of militant groups, UNICEF Afghanistan Representative Adele Khodr said getting girls and boys into school is “so much more than sitting in class,” explaining that “When children are not in school, they are at an increased danger of abuse, exploitation, and recruitment”.
Civil and political rights
The latest crackdowns on government opposition groups in Russia has resulted in the detention of 158 children. In total, police detained around 1,600 peaceful protesters in 27 cities, and in some cases police officers used excessive force against young protesters. In Saratov, police detained a 12-year-old boy who was peacefully chanting slogans with other protesters. Two plainclothes officials twisted the boy's hands behind his back and dragged him into a police car. On the child’s release, his father was fined for "neglecting parental duties". A 14-year-old who was detained at a Moscow protest spent over two and half hours locked in a police bus, and was then detained for hours at a police station. His parents were also charged with "neglecting parental duties".
In South Africa, the Gauteng provincial government has admitted armed police used live ammunition during a peaceful protest by unarmed secondary school students. One pupil was shot and subsequently hospitalised. Government opposition spokesperson, Ashor Sarupen noted that the pupils resorted to staging a protest about the lack of teachers after being consistently ignored by officials at the Department of Education. Thuto-Kitso Technical School in Fochville continued to offer subjects for which they did not have teachers, with students being without tuition for much of the year. Sarupen said, "It is ironic that the ANC [ruling national party] condemns the abuse of children in society while denying children their right to education and then shooting them for demanding their right… The use of live ammunition in this case was unwarranted, unacceptable and had the potential to descend into another Marikana situation," said Sarupen.
Thousands of young people have marched through the capital of Chile, Santiago, with schoolchildren joining students in demanding an end to "institutionalised sexism" and violence against women and girls on university campuses and schools. It is the latest in a string of protests since April, when allegations of sexual abuse by members of faculty and students first surfaced at a number of Chilean universities. The past month has seen female students occupy dozens of universities demanding allegations of sexual harassment be investigated and punished and calling for mandatory gender-equality training for students and faculty. A recent UNESCO study found that 24.7 percent of students have been affected by sexual violence in Chilean schools, with female, transgender and non-binary students being the worst affected. President Sebastián Piñera recently announced measures to combat sexism, but many students say they do not go far enough.
Migrant and refugee children
Anti-torture experts have expressed dismay at the conditions migrant and refugee children are being made to endure in Greece, stating that “such appalling conditions might easily amount to inhuman and degrading treatment”. Although the experts acknowledged “the difficult context and the significant challenges faced by the Greek authorities”, it criticised several centres for their conditions, citing “severely overcrowded […] filthy and malodorous” cells housing adults and children alike. For each example of good practice, such as people on the move being given full access to their mobile phones in one centre, there were reports of adults being detained with children, extremely poor hygiene, or access to outdoor exercise being severely restricted elsewhere. In one detention centre, on 17 April 2018, a total of 640 people were detained with access to just 374 beds. One of the worst situations was found in Fylakio Pre-departure Centre, where material conditions were described by the delegation as “unacceptable”. In a single cell, the delegation saw 95 foreign nationals — including families with young children, unaccompanied minors, pregnant women and single adult men — detained in about 1m² of living-space per person.
The UN’s human rights office has urged the United States to immediately stop separating asylum-seeking Central American children from their parents at its southern border. A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the office was deeply concerned over the “zero tolerance policy” introduced by the Trump administration to deter illegal immigration. Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said the policy had “led to people caught entering the country irregularly being subjected to criminal prosecution and having their children — including extremely young children — taken away from them as a result”. Shamdasani added that reports from civil society groups indicated that several hundred children had been separated from their parents at the border since October, including a one-year-old. President Trump tweeted his response, blaming “bad legislation passed by the Democrats”, but media outlets have clarified that the policy of separating families at the border was announced by Trump’s attorney general and implemented by his administration.
Around 11,000 Rohingya refugees have already been affected by monsoon rains as the season of downpours begins in Bangladesh. The first heavy rains of the year recently swept through Rohingya refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar, with torrential rains and winds up to 70 kilometres per hour causing a number of injuries and leaving one child dead. The area around Cox’s Bazar currently shelters some 900,000 refugees, including 720,000 who have arrived in Bangladesh since 25 August last year. While the UN refugee agency has worked to mitigate the damage floods and landslides are expected to do, the scale of the operation means extreme weather will almost certainly cause further damage, destruction and death. In March, the UN launched an appeal for US$ 951 million to meet the immediate needs of more than 880,000 refugees, but to date, the appeal is just over 21 percent funded.
CASE STUDY: Care leavers’ fight for redress for historical abuse
In the 1990s Australian care leavers demanded acknowledgement of historical abuse and neglect, leading to social and political change across the country which is still going on today.
CRIN’s case studies illustrate different approaches to children’s rights advocacy. Looking at how these efforts work in practice, CRIN is interviewing those involved and looking at the impact their work has had. We will highlight both successful cases and less successful ones - which have still had an impact - to allow advocates to learn from previous efforts to challenge children’s rights abuses.
Read the full case study here.
THE LAST WORD
"We are not going away. We will never give up.”
— CLAN vice-president Frank Golding on Australian care leavers’ struggle for recognition and redress. Read more in CRIN’s new case study.