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        General Assembly
29 May 2009


Eleventh session
Agenda item 3


Written statement* submitted by Defence for Children International (DCI),
a non-governmental organizations in special consultative status

The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

[22 May 2009]

The Right to Education for Children in Detention1

Education as a Right:

Children deprived of their liberty are low on the list of State priorities when it comes to the provision of education. Such children are invisible, forgotten, and neglected in national policies and action plans on education.

A number of States are failing to provide any education at all to children in detention. Others are providing some education; however, the quality and consistency is poor and education is seen as a privilege rather than a right.

Children have the right to education in all settings - including in places of detention. In order to ensure the provision of education to children in detention, it must be recognised as an inherent human right: one that cannot be denied when a child comes in conflict with the law.

The child's right to education is recognised in article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In addition, specific standards on education for children in detention are included in article 94 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and articles 38-46 of the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty (Havana Rules).

Article 38 of the Havana Rules states:

“Every juvenile of compulsory school age has the right to education suited to his or her needs and abilities and designed to prepare him or her for return to society. Such education should be provided outside the detention facility in community schools wherever possible and, in any case, by qualified teachers through programmes integrated with the education system of the country so that, after release, juveniles may continue their education without difficulty. Special attention should be given by the administration of the detention facilities to the education of juveniles of foreign origin or with particular cultural or ethnic needs. Juveniles who are illiterate or have cognitive or learning difficulties should have the right to special education.”

Despite having these standards in place, serious breaches of the child’s right to education can be found in detention centres, remand homes and prisons in all regions of the world.

The following paragraphs address some of the greatest gaps in the provision of education.


Education under certain conditions / withdrawal of education as punishment:

In a number of States, education can be withheld as punishment or denied due to external factors such as the “security situation”.

In Israel, the District Court in Tel Aviv ruled in 1997 that Palestinian children in Israeli detention are entitled to the same education as Israeli child prisoners, including an education programme based on the Palestinian curriculum; however, this right is subject to the security situation . As such, Israeli prison authorities allow only very limited education in 2 out of the 5 prisons and none of the 7 interrogation centres where Palestinian children may be detained for up to three months or more. Similarly, in Niger, the right to education can be denied due to “security reasons”.


Lack of measures to address different ages, education levels, and marginalised groups:


There is also a consistent lack of attention to the specific needs of girls in detention, making them further invisible in the justice system. For example, Palestinian girls detained by Israel receive no education whatsoever.

In contrast, both the Netherlands and Italy have special education plans designed to meet the needs of each child.

Conclusions and Recommendations:

There is an urgent need for States to ensure that their education policies and commitments are extended to children in detention. Children in detention do not constitute a separate category of children with a negotiable set of rights. While the national legislation in some countries does provide for education, it is rarely referred to specifically as a right.

When children in detention are understood as rights-holders, education cannot be withheld as punishment, refused due to lack of resources or forgotten due to the absence of political will. States must provide education and opportunities to facilitate the child’s eventual rehabilitation and reintegration to society; however, this is not to say that education should be provided only as a means to this end: it must be guaranteed to children as a right in and of itself.
DCI endorses the recommendations in the Special Rapporteur’s report. In addition, DCI calls on States to:

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