Two prominent human rights groups Thursday urged governments to do more to fight what they said is widespread abuse of children by state officials and armed opposition groups worldwide.
The World Organization against Torture and Save the Children charged in a report that children are regularly tortured on suspicion of petty crime or political activity, or merely because of prejudice, but those responsible are rarely punished.
“It is impossible to obtain statistics or systematic documentation demonstrating the extent to which this phenomenon takes place since the very nature of torture is secretive,” the report said. “Furthermore, few states will openly admit to torturing children.”
“We need greater efforts to make the torture of children visible,” said Bill Bell of Save the Children.
The report cited a study of 100 street children in India of whom 60 said they had been detained, verbally abused or beaten by police; murders of such children by police in Brazil and Guatemala; and detention of groups of children in Kenya to “clean up” the streets.
It noted that, according to the rights group Human Rights Watch, an estimated one in three suspected juvenile offenders in Russia is subjected to violence in detention. A Pakistani medical team, meanwhile, found that more than half of 100 children detained in Karachi had been tortured, while Turkish police allegedly tortured children as young as 12.
The report said that “torture may form part of the child’s training” by rebel forces in conflicts such as those in Congo and Sierra Leone, while children may be beaten or killed if they fail to perform as expected. Children sometimes are preferred to adults for their “greater malleability,” it said.
Up to 10,000 children have been abducted since 1995 by Uganda’s rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, which uses violence to instill fear in its own ranks, the report added.
“It’s poverty and discrimination that leads to the torture of children, as much as politics,” Bell said.
The report comes ahead of a session Friday of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child which will address violence by states against children.
It urged all countries to abolish corporal punishment, provide alternatives to detention, respect the definition of those under 18 as children and keep them out of conflicts, while investigating any allegations of torture.