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Launch of Report on Deprivation of Liberty of Children in Conflict Situations in Africa

Last Friday, on 20 June 2024, the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) launched its report ‘Deprived of Liberty, Denied Justice: Double Jeopardy for Children in Conflict Situations in Africa’. The report sheds light on the plight of children deprived of liberty in situations of armed conflict.

The report builds on the 2019 UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty and brings into the spotlight children who are literally and figuratively locked away and forgotten during conflicts. The Department of Child Law and Health Law at Leiden University is pleased to have had two of its members involved in the development of the report. Lucy Opoka a PhD Candidate at the Department, provided her input on the report as a member of the study’s Advisory Group.

Ann Skelton, Professor of Law and Chair on Children’s Rights in a Sustainable World at the Department of Child Law, also serves as a standing member of the ACPF’s International Board of Trustees. During her speech at the Virtual launch of the report, Professor Skelton described the detention of children in Africa for 'actual or alleged' association in armed groups as 'harmful practices that are taking a worrying hold'. She emphasised the fact that the report included the voices of children, 'telling the hard and harrowing stories of their abductions, slavery, abuse and detention'. She expressed hope that their narratives would call to account those responsible for these rights violations.

According to the report, more than 360 million children in Africa are living in situations of armed conflict. Notably, these children face a lot of rights violations in times of conflict. Abductions, forced recruitment and sexual exploitations during conflict, often catapult children into the front lines of conflict. Their association with armed groups or family links to armed groups leaves them at risk of facing detention due to their direct or indirect involvement in armed conflict. These children thus face a 'double jeopardy' as despite being victims of grave violations including forced recruitment and abduction into these armed groups, they are often punished and detained as perpetrators.

The report engages children giving them a voice to express the realities they have endured as a result of the conflict. It raises awareness on the alarming detention conditions that children deprived of liberty in situations of armed conflict live in. They are often detained together with adults and maltreated contrary to their rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and many other relevant international and regional human rights instruments.

The report highlights the drivers of conflict on the continent including poor governance, poverty and inequality and climate change among others. It encourages the adoption of effective conflict prevention measures to address these drivers of conflict. The report further recommends the strengthening of child protection systems and adopting child friendly justice standards to appropriately deal with children affected by armed conflict, as victims rather than perpetrators.

The involvement of the Department of Child Law and Health Law in the development of the report further cements its partnership with the ACPF which was formalized by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in May this year. Together the Department of Child Law and Health Law at Leiden University, and the ACPF are actualizing their goals of creating a nexus between African and European civil society and academic institutions by promoting research and advocacy that advances the rights of children in Africa.

Photo Credit: African Child Policy Forum
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