“When the lives and the rights of children are at stake, there must be no silent witnesses.”
Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF 1995-2005
To mark international human right day of Human Rights 2019, Lawyers and Doctors for Human Rights launches one of its most important reports to date, “No Silent Witnesses: Violations against Children in Syrian Detention Centres”.
This is LDHR’s fourth report in its series of seminal reports on detention in Syria. This report highlights the sexual and physical violations against children in Syrian detention centres. Based on LDHR Medical Expert Evaluations in the cases of the 10 children and reports of the 25 eye-witnesses to violations against children in detention, the report finds evidence of Grave Violations committed against children in detention including killing and torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detention and potentially enforced disappearance. In addition, protection under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (ratified by Syria) was almost entirely lacking, with violations of virtually all CRC provisions relating to children in detention and of international minimum standards for detention including the Mandela, Bangkok and Havana Rules.
Out of ten LDHR Medical Expert Reports for patients who were juveniles while they were in detention:
– Nine were 17 years old when they were arrested, one was 10 years old.
– Four out of five of the girls were subjected to sexual violence. Three out of five of the boys were subjected to forced nudity (a form of sexual violence), and four out of five of the girls.
– Nine out of ten were subjected to physical violence. The 10-year-old girl was threatened with execution.
– All juveniles were mixed into the adult prison population for most if not all of their detention.
– The 10-year-old girl was twice subjected to a week alone in solitary confinement.
– The average duration of detention was 438 days (in stark violation of Havana Rule 2 which determines detention of children must be a last resort and for the minimum time possible).
– The conditions of detention were life threatening, with disease and death around them.
– Only four were taken before a court at any time during their detention, none promptly after arrest.
– None had contact with family outside detention, and none spoke of contact with or assistance from a lawyer.
While only a small patient group was studied, the impact findings are alarming and may perhaps help us to understand how to respond better for juvenile detainees. 90% had physical consequences from their detention. 100% still suffer anxiety, fear, sleep disturbances and nightmares. 90% report flash-backs, intrusive recurrent memories, an impact on the relationships with their families, and physical sequelae from the events in detention. 80% present with symptoms of depression. Strikingly, 50% of them reported suicidal thoughts or attempts.
LDHR urges quick and strong action from all actors to protect and prevent such violations against children continuing in Syria. A full set of recommendations can be found at the start of the report. We call upon everyone to stand up for the children of Syria. The report can be downloaded here.
“There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace.” –Kofi Annan
“If we don’t stand up for children, then we don’t stand for much.” –Marian Wright Edelman