Children in Detention

States are increasingly arresting and detaining children associated with armed groups, be it because they are perceived as a threat to national security or because they have allegedly participated in hostilities. Children who are placed in detention are sometimes kept in conditions which do not meet the minimum standards set out in various international legal instruments on juvenile justice.

Administrative detention of children

In some situations, States place children in administrative detention, rather than charging them with a criminal offence and bringing them before a court. These children are often detained for long periods of time without being granted legal safeguards. When deprived of their liberty, children are particularly vulnerable to abuses.

Children before national courts or military tribunals

In other situations, States prosecute children before national courts or military tribunals, which do not generally apply juvenile justice standards. As a result, these children are frequently tried without legal assistance, without the presence of their parents and without a clear understanding of the charges brought against them.

Children as victims, not perpetrators

Given the forced nature of their association with armed groups, children should be treated primarily as victims, not as perpetrators. Emphasis should be placed on prosecuting adult recruiters and commanders based on the concept of command responsibility. The detention and prosecution of children for crimes arising from their active participation in hostilities should at all times be a measure of last resort.

Diversion from the judicial system

Children must be made to understand the consequences of their actions, and victims of their violence must feel that justice has been done. Nevertheless, diversion away from the judicial system is more suitable for children and society at large. Alternatives that promote the reintegration of a child into his or her community include truth-telling, restorative justice measures and traditional healing ceremonies.