Protecting children’s rights in anti-terrorism legislation

2 min read

We want children accused of terrorism offenses to be processed through the normal justice system, not separate terrorism or military justice systems.

Leo Ratledge, Legal Coordinator at Child Rights International Network

Governments globally are developing enhanced counter-terrorism laws. However, Child Rights International Network (CRIN), a global child rights research and policy NGO, finds that these laws often create gaps in how children are protected, even in child-friendly justice systems.

The United Nations recently launched a global study on children deprived of liberty that included children's treatment in the context of conflict and national security situations. Together with Child Soldiers International (CSI), CRIN took the opportunity to look more closely at areas where there is insufficient or unexamined information on how children are affected by global counter-terrorism legislation. The two organizations turned to White & Case to provide a comprehensive comparative global overview in 17 countries across Europe, Africa and Asia.

“The way anti-terrorism legislation impacts children varies, but a good example is age limits, which are often set aside for anti-terrorism laws even if the country involved has already strict laws about age limits normally,” says Leo Ratledge, Legal Coordinator at CRIN. "If children aren't specifically protected in anti-terrorism legislation, it can create gaps in the protections that they usually enjoy."

Our research—conducted by a team of 39 lawyers and legal staff in ten offices—will feed directly into the UN study and, in turn, to every branch of the UN, including those providing technical assistance to countries that are reforming their laws. The goal is simple, according to Leo: "We want to see law reform that leads to child-friendly justice systems that take children's issues into account and applies the same rights and protections to them as in the civilian context. We want children accused of terrorism offenses to be processed through the normal justice system, not separate terrorism or military justice systems."

And while law reform is neither easy nor quick, Leo is optimistic: "This is a long-term project, but working with the UN means these outcomes can spread farther and quicker than you might think."

Human rights guidance for businesses

We partnered with the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham University School of Law on projects exploring human rights issues in the context of business in Africa.

Our first project looked at business and human rights in Ghana for companies wanting to invest in or engage in business development there. The second project, in coordination with the UN Global Compact, focused on human rights risks when assessing investment in Nigeria.

Our work is part of the Center's clinic on international law and development in Africa.