The right to protection from hostile conditions

In humane conditions such as war, detention and torture interfere with a child’s physical, emotional, psychological and social growth. That is why the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (herein referred to as The Convention) put statuses in place to protect children.

Article 37 of The Convention says that state parties should 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 eighteen years of age.”

Additionally, children are not to be deprived of their liberty unlawfully or carelessly. A child should only be detained as a last resort and the detention should last as briefly as possible.

During detention, the child shall be treated with respect and dignity, taking into consideration the needs of someone his/her age. For instance, a child ought to be separated from adults unless it is necessary to keep him/her with adults. A child in detention also has the right to stay in contact with his/her family and to have immediate access to legal assistance.

If a conflict breaks out, article 38 says that all countries which signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child shall do everything possible to ensure that anyone below the age of eighteen does not take part in hostilities. And if it is found necessary to recruit children, they ought to be above fifteen and those who are oldest should be given first priority.

A child who is a victim of neglect, exploitation, abuse, torture, armed conflict or any other form of cruelty has the right to physical and psychological recovery, and social integration. This is according to article 39 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which further says, “Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.”

If a child is accused or convicted of a crime, article 40 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child says that the child has the right to be treated in a way that promotes his/her sense of dignity and self-worth. This is aimed to reestablish or strengthen the child’s respect for human rights and freedoms of others.

For the abovementioned reason, every child accused of a crime shall be deemed innocent until proven guilty and he/she shall go through due process of the law having access to legal assistance and not being coerced to testify or confess. Article 40 also requires the establishment of a minimum age for legal liability which in most countries has been set at fourteen.

If a child is required to serve punishment for a crime, state parties to The Convention are obliged to first seek appropriate alternatives to jail sentences such as counselling, probation, foster care, as well as education and vocational training programmes.