Responding to reports that children are being held in solitary confinement or moved to a Queensland watch house following a staff member testing positive for COVID-19, Amnesty International Australia campaigner, Joel Clark said:
“Moving children, many of whom are on remand and haven’t been convicted of any crime, to adult watch houses is totally inappropriate and contravenes the Queensland government’s own commitment to keep kids out of these temporary jails.
Moving children, many of whom are on remand and haven’t been convicted of any crime, to adult watch houses is totally inappropriate and contravenes the Queensland government’s own commitment to keep kids out of these temporary jails.Amnesty International Australia campaigner, Joel Clark.
“Rights advocates including Amnesty International have long warned that this scenario would occur. The Queensland Government has had ample opportunity to find a solution that doesn’t contravene its own commitments, or those obligations it has under international law.
“That kids are also being held in solitary confinement due to a COVID-19 case in the facility exposes the fact that the Queensland government has not met its commitments to keeping children out of these adult facilities.
“It is of extreme concern that these 127 children are being forced to suffer the apparent human rights abuse of solitary confinement due to the failure of the Queensland Government. Amnesty is concerned the Queensland Government’s approach to this matter may be contravening international human rights laws and rules. Solitary confinement harms children, and international rules and laws seek to protect children from this harm.
“The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that any child deprived of their liberty must be treated with humanity and respect. What this means in practise is set out in more detail in the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty; it states that solitary confinement – when it comprises the physical or mental health of the child – must be strictly prohibited. Also, the Nelson Mandela Rules state that no child should be held without meaningful contact for more than 22 hours, and solitary should be used for the shortest period of time possible. The Queensland Government is threatening to hold these children in solitary for two weeks – and this is unconscionable.
“Ultimately, children do not belong in any kind of prison – much less a watch house – and certainly not in solitary confinement. These aren’t the responses needed to address a COVID-19 outbreak, especially when there are options available such as removing children from detention. This latest disturbing incident shows why we need all jurisdictions in Australia to follow the ACT’ Government’s lead and raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.”