Caught in the crossfire? An international survey of anti-terrorism legislation and its impact on children

Children are routinely detained without charge for long periods under counter-terrorism powers in many countries. Children convicted of offences, such as association with a terrorist group, are punished with harsh and sometimes extreme penalties; life imprisonment is not unusual, and in some countries children have been executed.

Some state military and intelligence agencies use children as spies and informants, exposing them to undue and potentially serious harm. These effects of counter-terrorism measures are unambiguously incompatible with States’ human rights obligations to children. In particular, the strategies violate several specific rights of the child, including: The right to privacy and to freedom of expression; The right to be protected from violence and exploitation.

No State needs to violate the human rights of its public to tackle terrorism effectively, nor is there any advantage to be gained from doing so. A State willing to sacrifice children’s rights puts them in harm’s way, while handing an easy victory to terrorism.

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