Child detention shutterstock 1294736938 ©Shutterstock


Locking up a child is never in their best interest. Detention affects children’s development, makes them more vulnerable to torture and ill-treatment, jeopardizes their right to education, and risks compromising their chances to integrate into society.

Nonetheless, at least 1.3 to 1.5 million of them are deprived of liberty every year worldwide, according to a 2019 UN study that the OMCT supported and which included prisons, immigration detention, and various institutions. Another estimated one million children find themselves in police custody.

Those among them who are in conflict with the law come mostly from poor and marginalized communities. Abuse, including torture, which is frequent in settings of deprivation of liberty, takes a particularly heavy toll on children.

Since 1993, the OMCT has worked on protecting such children from torture and other forms of violence in collaboration with local organisations that are usually members of its SOS-Torture Network. This is done through regular visits to child detention centres in priority countries, advocacy with the authorities, legal assistance, and support to national monitoring bodies. Another important tool towards ending the torture of children is to bring the issue to United Nations human rights bodies, such as the UN Committee Against Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, or the UN Human Rights Council.

At least 1.3 to 1.5 million of children are deprived of liberty every year worldwide

Since its start, the OMCT’s work has led to key improvements in the protection of children deprived of liberty. This included structural reforms, such as legal reforms aligned with international child rights standards for the protection of children deprived of liberty and reforms of institutions in charge of children in contact with the justice system; direct improvements of the situation of children in detention, including releases of children from detention; improvement of detention conditions; alternatives to detention and diversion measures; and closure of prisons with inhumane and degrading detention conditions.

The OMCT, through its Child Protection Against Torture Programme, currently works to prevent and protect children from torture and ill-treatment in six priority countries: Benin, Brazil, India, the Philippines, Togo, and Uruguay.

OMCT Raffy Lerma Child Above Grave
A wreath of flowers is placed at the crime scene where 17-year old Kian delos Santos was killed by three policemen, to commemorate the first year of his death in Caloocan, Metro Manila, Philippines. ©Raffy Lerma