Resolution Failed: Juvenile Justice Still An Issue

By Adri Faris, Xinhua News Agency

The Human Rights Council came together to discuss the rights of our young.

Delegates working together during an unmoderated caucus

Members of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) gathered today (June 1) to discuss the issue pertinent to juvenile justice.

The issue has become increasingly critical in recent years. Since the leaking of the video depicting the violent mistreatment of a youth in Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Australia back in July 2016, as well as reports of a similar situation in the Medway Youth Jail in the UK, the public has started to pay attention to the basic rights of juvenile offenders.

The video depicted the brutality of prison guards when dealing with teenage detainees. In this particular video, a teenager is seen being restrained to a chair with a spit hood in a clip, while another clip showed a different teenager being stripped violently by guards. Tear gassing of several other detainees can also be seen.

These leaked videos shocked the international community, resulting in increasing doubts about the standards of treatment of juvenile criminals in other countries as well. The international community was concerned that if such treatment was allowed to take place in a developed country, many of which have a respectable human rights record, what is happening elsewhere?

Among those in attendance were the delegates of China, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and even the delegate of Australia himself.

A draft resolution was introduced by the delegate of Australia during council proceedings. The draft resolution addressed various areas of concern, chief among which were the measures that need to be implemented to ensure fair treatment of youth during arrest, during trial as well as during detention.

However, the draft resolution failed. 16 delegates voted against the resolution while only 10 delegates voted for the resolution. 6 delegates abstained from voting.

Among the delegates that wished to speak for the resolution were the delegates of United States, the Senegal and of course, the delegate of Australia. The delegate of China, Syria and Bahrain spoke against the resolution.

The delegate of Bahrain pointed out various flaws pertaining to the resolution proposed which he deemed “concerning”. He argued that the the draft resolution lacks punitive measures against countries which violate the terms. He also expressed his concern that the term “wrongdoing” used in the resolution was very vague, considering the fact that differences in governance will affect views of what constitutes “wrongdoing” – in particular, countries that practise the Sharia law versus democratic nations which are characteristically more liberal.

The delegate of China stood firmly against the resolution due to issues pertaining to national security. He believed that the draft resolution would require China to disclose confidential information, threatening national security.  

He also brought up the fact that with the resolution, the Internal Development of Accountability (IDOA) will be “stretched way too thin” because it would be impossible for one organisation to fulfill so many different duties and purposes. These issues raised by the delegate of China were all reasonable and pertinent to the current issue and needs of the modern world.

It is important to note that the delegate of the US himself, who is a sponsor of the draft resolution, acknowledged the fact that the resolution he was speaking for was “flawed in many ways”. He fought for the passing of the resolution because he believes that the concerns raised by the delegate of China pertaining to interests of national security could easily be overcome through censorship as well as the fact that the privacy of the juveniles would not be infringed upon.

However, the delegate of the US failed to address other areas of concern, nor did he address the arguments brought up by the other delegates. Many other delegates in council raised concerns related to issues of lack of clarity in terms of phrasing as well as the problem of inefficiency that would be brought about with the implementation of some of the policies proposed. However, the delegate of US failed to resolve these concerns when speaking for the resolution.

Unfortunately, time did not permit the delegates to continue the debate that afternoon. We will follow up on their secondary resolution shortly.


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