Who supports the campaign?

End the inhuman sentencing of children

Thomas HammarbergProfessor Yanghee LeeManfred NowakPaulo Sérgio PinheiroMarta Santos PaisDr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui

"Certain types of punishment are unacceptable in all circumstances and for all human beings: amputating, caning, stoning and, of course, all forms of execution. Such atrocities are not more acceptable when supported by public authorities in the name of “justice”. Whatever the criminal offence, society should not itself respond with criminal violations of human rights.

Not even children have been spared such judicial cruelties in spite of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and other human rights standards for young people. There are countries in which the death penalty can still be applied on minors or where caning or whipping is practiced as legal sanction. Laws allowing such sanctions are in themselves illegal and violating agreed human rights standards. Other state parties to the human rights treaties ought to react against such legislation, in particular when they are used.

Another cruelty which still exists in some countries is the application of life sentences against children. Such punishment deprives the individual of any hope, any future. It is both cruel and inhuman - and certainly violates basic principles in the UN Convention.

Progressively, European states have stopped these bad practices and removed them from the law books. However, we have to remain vigilant to prevent the appearance of other forms of inhuman and degrading sanctions against under-age offenders. Also, we have an obligation to make our opinions heard when children in other parts of the world are violated – the rights of the child is a global cause.

The time has definitely come to do more to stop cruelty inflicted on children."

Thomas Hammarberg, former Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe

"Twenty years since the Convention on the Rights of the Child entered into force, children continue to be faced with inhumane treatment. We find many countries with a minimum age of criminal responsibility as low as 7 or 8. Furthermore, these young children can be sentenced to caning, amputation, life imprisonment, and even death through horrific means of stoning and shooting. What is most shocking is the fact that despite repeated condemnation by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, all the other Treaty Bodies, Special mandate holders, the Independent Expert Paulo Sergio Pinheiro's of the UNSG's Study on Violence against Children, such inhuman sentences continue.

The world seems to completely forget Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which requires states to ensure that "no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below the age of 18". We must not waste any more time being complacent to such inhuman and degrading treatment carried out on our children.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child commits itsellf to supporting the campaign. We urge the rest of the international community to join hands to rapidly end this inhumanity against children.

Professor Yanghee Lee, former Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

“We cannot accept that inhuman sentencing of children to death, to life imprisonment or to corporal punishment is still part of the reality in many countries. Roughly one million children around the world are deprived of their liberty, leaving them among the most vulnerable and forgotten human beings in our societies. It is shocking that some governments remain inactive while children in detention are at a higher risk of abuse and ill-treatment, endangering their well-being at the time of detention and their future development.

As UN Special Rapporteur on Torture I have emphasized that any form of corporal punishment, particularly against children, is contrary to the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, constituting a gross violation of international treaties and customary law.

CRIN’s campaigning at international, regional and national levels is needed more than ever to raise awareness of the current situation and to induce governments around the world to finally prohibit and eliminate this utmost inhuman sentencing of children. I wholeheartedly support this effort.”

Manfred Nowak – former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

“It is indeed horrific that any State still has laws that authorize its courts to sentencechildren to death, to life in prison or to corporal punishment. For most of us, it is inconceivable that adults can be implicated actively in such barbarity to children – yet thousands are every day, in governments and parliaments, in courts and in the administration of these punishments -. It makes a mockery of the international and regional human rights systems that such gross violations should continue, despite repeated condemnation by Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures. The rights-based UN Secretary-General’s Study on violence against children which I led recommended the immediate prohibition of all forms of violence against children – and inhuman sentencing is an extreme form of deliberate violence.

“We can only hope that CRIN’s exposure of the detail of what is still happening and sustained campaigning at international, regional and national levels will rapidly end this gross inhumanity. I commit myself to support the campaign in any way I can.”

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chairman of the International Commission of Inquiry for Syria, Independent Expert appointed by the UN Secretary-General to lead the UNSG’s Study on Violence against Children, 2003 – 2007; Commissioner and Rapporteur on Children’s Rights, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Organization of American States

"Guided by international human rights treaties and the recommendations of the UN Study on Violence against Children, the legal prohibition of all forms of violence against children in all settings is a key priority for my mandate.

The UN Study urged countries to adopt legislation to prohibit all forms of violence against children and to ensure the protection of children from the imposition of death penalty and life imprisonment without possibility of release, for offences committed below the age of 18.

Many countries have reviewed their juvenile justice systems to ensure conformity with international human rights standards. Following the UN Study, a growing number of countries are moving towards a legal ban on all forms of violence against children, including violent forms of punishment in the penal system. While these developments are encouraging, it remains a matter of deep concern that a minority of countries still permit the sentencing of children to extreme penalties including execution, whipping, flogging, stoning and amputation, as well as lengthy periods of imprisonment, in some cases with the possibility of a life in prison.

As the international community celebrates twenty years of implementation of the CRC, it is more than ever urgent that countries bring their laws in line with human rights standards and ensure that no child is subjected to these forms of punishment. Article 40 of the CRC provides inspiring guidance for the treatment of children involved with the juvenile justice system, "to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child's sense of dignity and worth, which reinforces the child's respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others and which takes into account the child's age and the desirability of promoting the child's reintegration and the child's assuming a constructive role in society...". Guided by these values, I fully support this campaign by CRIN and its partners which will hopefully encourage and accelerate reforms in all regions."

Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence against Children

"I wholeheartedly support CRIN's campaign to end all inhuman sentencing of children and condemn the many grave injustices against children perpetrated under some penal codes. In some states, children may receive sentences of extreme violence including flogging, stoning, amputations, life sentences and executions. Although universally condemned and prohibited by international law, in certain states these severe punishments are perpetrated in the name of Islam. We cannot remain silent in the face of religious justification for these gross violations of children's rights. Faithfulness to the message of Islam means protecting the rights of children and treating all children with compassion. Whatever the religious tradition or school of thought, a priority according to the norms of Islam is given to the protection of children's rights, not to administering violent punishments. For Muslims this is a message of equality and justice and a moral obligation."

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, Founder Trustee, Muslim Institute, London, 8 October 2010