“Detention of children is inextricably linked with the ill-treatment of children” — Are you listening, President Obama?

Juan Mendez, Argentina, was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment in November 2010.  Per his report to the UN on March 5, 2015, he found that detaining immigrant children results in “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.”  He recommended that States that detain children immigrants, such as the United States, should “cease the detention of children, with or without their parents, on the basis of their immigration status.”  (See full UN report here.)

The report concluded that:

  • Detention of children should be used only for the shortest possible period of time, only if it is in the best interest of the child, and limited to exceptional cases.
  • States should adopt alternatives to detention for children whenever possible.
  • Minimum age of criminal responsibility no lower than 12 years old.
  • No life sentences without parole for children (and even lengthy sentences can be grossly disproportionate and amount to ill-treatment).
  • No use of restraints for children deprived of their liberty under any circumstance.
  • No solitary confinement for children deprived of their liberty.
  • No death penalty for children deprived of their liberty.
  • No corporal punishment for children deprived of their liberty.
  • No immigration detention (detention of children based on migration status is never in the best interests of child, is grossly disproportionate, and constitutes ill-treatment).
  • Special attention should be paid to children deprived of their liberty in health- and social-care institutions, including in private settings.

Are you listening President Obama?