UN child rights monitors demand release of children from Cambodian drug detention centres and investigation of abuses

Date: 28 June 2011

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The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called for the immediate release of all children arbitrarily detained in Cambodia in drug detention centres and the prompt investigation of all allegations of abuse.

The call comes following the Committee’s review of Cambodia’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which includes the right to be protected from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (article 33).

The Committee, made up of eighteen independent experts from around the world, raised its “deep concern about allegations that children and adolescent addicted to drugs, children with mental disabilities and children in street situations have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including widespread beatings, whippings and administration of electric shock in drug rehabilitation and youth centres where some of them had been forcibly placed

It went on to recommend that “children in any form of arbitrary detention, whether in drug treatment and rehabilitation, social rehabilitation or any other type of Government-run centre are released without delay” and that Cambodia “ensure prompt investigation into allegations of ill treatment and torture of children in those centers and that perpetrators are brought to justice

The Committee went on to reinforce its view that “detoxification, treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration interventions of children using drugs comply with international human rights standards

To this aim the Committee urged Cambodia to “develop community-based drug treatment and rehabilitation programmes

These findings add to growing international jurisprudence surrounding human rights and drug policies. Including on harm reduction and the right to health.

Article 33 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires that governments take “appropriate measures” to protect children from drugs. Once again we see clearly that measures that result in human rights abuses cannot be deemed “appropriate” and themselves violate the Convention.

In an earlier report on Ukraine, the Committee called for the decriminalization of children who use drugs and for youth focused harm reduction measures.

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