News/Amnesty: Children's rights - when will they become a reality?

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Subject: News/Amnesty: Children's rights - when will they become a reality?
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Thu Nov 18 1999 - 21:24:06 EST


          Children's rights - when will they become a reality?

OTC 11-17-99 3:52 AM

 London (Amnesty International, November 16, 1999) - Governments
throughout the world are failing in their commitments to protect children
>from human rights abuses, Amnesty International said today, marking the
forthcoming tenth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
(CRC). "Children are suffering every day as a result of government
inaction, deliberate policy and unwillingness to meet their obligations
under the CRC," Amnesty International said.
   The spectrum of abuses that children face range from torture and
ill-treatment by police to honour killings by family members, from child
trafficking to bonded labour, from forced prostitution to working in
sweatshops, from child soldiers to juvenile executions. "Children not only
suffer physically but also mentally," the organization added.
   "The emotional scars from experiencing extreme fear or acts of
brutality can have long-lasting traumatic effects -- the loss of childhood
innocence cannot be reversed."
   Although much has been achieved through the relentless work of
children's non-governmental organizations, certain governments and the
United Nations, much remains to be done to protect and safeguard children
>from the harsh and often tragic conditions which they face -- whether in
police custody, in the community or in times of armed conflict. The
continuing list of abuses against children is endless, despite the fact
that nearly all states have ratified the CRC -- except for the USA and the
collapsed state of Somalia -- as well as other international treaties such
as the Convention against Torture, and are committed to upholding and
protecting children's rights.
   "Governments must prove that they are serious in their claims to
protect the rights of children," the human rights organization stressed.
"For too long governments have paid lip service to the notion of
children's rights."
   "While the CRC emphasizes that the family is the natural environment
for nurturing the child, it places the primary obligation on the state to
protect children from all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation, even
where these areas are not carried out directly by state agents."
   Children often suffer neglect, abuse and violence when they come into
contact with the law.
   When children are detained by the police -- often without charge or
trial -- they are frequently tortured and ill-treated to obtain
confessions and in some instances sexually abused and raped. Their legal
rights are often ignored, their parents are not informed of their
whereabouts and they are held in degrading conditions.
   Amnesty International has received testimony from children as young as
14 who have been sexually assaulted in Turkey while in police custody.
"For the vast majority of children, the reality of juvenile justice is not
rehabilitation and special care, but punishment, intolerance and greater
marginalization."
   The CRC prohibits the imposition of the death penally for crimes
committed before the child turned 18.
   Yet in the 1990s, Amnesty International has documented 19 executions of
persons convicted for crimes committed whilst under the age of 18 in Iran,
Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the USA and Yemen. Ten of these
executions were carried out in the USA.
   More than 70 people remain on death row in the USA for crimes committed
under the age of 18. War is an everyday reality for millions of children.
   14 million children are refugees or internally displaced within their
own countries as a result of conflict beyond their making. Over a third of
modern war casualties are estimated to be children.
   Over 300,000 children under the age of 18 are thought to be fighting in
conflicts around the world, including in Afghanistan, Angola, Colombia,
Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Uganda, while the UK is the only
European country which routinely deploys under-18s into combat situations.
Many children are forced to join by intimidation or abduction, others
volunteer because they seek food, shelter, employment and security.
   Casualty rates among children are generally high because of their
inexperience, fearlessness and lack of training. "Using child soldiers is
a conscious decision taken by governments or by leaders of armed
opposition groups."
   "The use of child soldiers only adds to the cycle of violence by
brutalizing a new generation," the organization added.
   "Yet efforts in the UN to agree an optional protocol to the CRC,
raising the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces to 18,
continue to be thwarted by the USA and a few other countries."
   "Governments, opposition groups and other actors must fulfil its
commitments under the CRC to ensure that respect for children's rights
becomes a reality," Amnesty International concluded. "Children's rights
are the building blocks for securing human rights for future generations."

   For further information, contact Amnesty International, 1 Easton
Street, London WC1X 8DJ,+44-71-413-5500 ,+44-71-956-1157. Email:
amnestyamnesty.org. Web: http://www.amnesty.org/. You may repost this
message onto other sources provided the main text is not altered in any
way and both the header crediting Amnesty International and this footer
remain intact.
   Distributed via Africa News Online.
    Copyright 1999

Melanie Orhant

morhant@igc.org
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