Philippines: Youth justice system and violations of children's rights

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International
AI INDEX: ASA 35/009/2003     11 April 2003

Amnesty International expressed its concern today about worrying omissions 
and inadequate implementation of domestic law that leave children in 
detention in the Philippines vulnerable to torture or ill-treatment, and 
inappropriate sentencing.

" We are shocked by the huge discrepancy between the youth justice system 
on paper and that exercised in practice," the organization said launching 
its report "Philippines: A different childhood: the apprehension and 
detention of child suspects and offenders" (ASA 35/007/2003, view the 
report online at ) 
highlighting the organization's key concerns regarding the apprehension and 
detention of children.

"There are serious and widespread defects in the administration of juvenile 
justice in the Philippines that must be urgently addressed," Amnesty 
International emphasized. "We urge the Philippine government to ensure that 
child detainees are treated in accordance with international standards, and 
to immediately and impartially investigate any allegations of torture and 
ill-treatment of children on arrest or in detention".

Filipino children who come into conflict with the law tend to come from the 
most disadvantaged and marginalized sectors of society. Many have been 
raised in poverty and have received little or no education. Many of the 
200,000 children who live on the streets have suffered domestic violence or 
sexual abuse.

"Street children are particularly likely to be arrested as they may be 
forced to beg or steal in order to survive. Addiction to glue-sniffing is 
common and increases the risk of being taken into custody. They are 
particularly vulnerable in detention because they do not have family and 
community support," Amnesty International explained.

Often handcuffed on arrest, children may be subjected to punches and slaps 
with fists, or beatings with truncheons, rifle butts or canes. There have 
also been reports of the adults who accuse them of crimes assaulting child 
suspects in the presence of police, sometimes with active police 
participation. Some children have reported having their fingernails singed 
with a lit cigarette or being subjected to electric shocks.

There are indications that many children in detention have little or no 
understanding of why they were arrested or the charges against them. 
Children rarely have any access to lawyers and many have reported signing 
documents they did not understand. In detention, children -- both girls and 
boys -- have been raped and sexually assaulted. A serious and widespread 
problem is that child detainees are frequently held in adult jails. In some 
facilities they share cells with adults. Such intimate and constant contact 
with adult detainees -- including those who have committed serious crimes 
-- leaves children highly vulnerable to sexual assault or other abuse.

Facilities are overcrowded, often oppressively hot and airless with 
inadequate sanitary facilities. In one prison in Luzon children had nowhere 
to sleep as the beds were taken by adult detainees and the floor was wet 
with urine. Prison visitors have reported seeing children fighting for food.

At least eight young people -- all aged under 18 at the time of their 
alleged offence -- are currently reportedly under sentence of death in the 
Philippines. In most of these cases their death sentences were imposed 
following an incorrect assumption on arrest that they were legally adults.


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