SPARC attends a high level experts consultation by the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands

In order to have an interactive discussion on the draft Policy for children, the Office of the Prosecutor (Office) of the International Criminal Court (ICC), organized a High Level Experts’ roundtable consultation on 11 July 2016, at the new permanent premises of the ICC in The HagueSPARC was one of the few experts across the globe that was sponsored to attend the consultation. The process of developing its Policy on Children, is in line with one of the Strategic goals of ICC to pay particular attention to crimes against and affecting children. The Policy will be officially launched during the 15th session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) in The Hague, in November 2016.

The Policy will guide the Office in addressing international crimes against and affecting children under the Rome Statute, as it strives to contribute towards closing the impunity gap for such crimes. It will also address the Office interaction with children in the course of its work, bearing in mind their rights and best interests.

In order to inform the Policy, various consultations were held. There were discussions with staff members in May 2014. Consultations with experts, as well as children/youth, were held in various regions, in 2014-2015, with funding and support from certain NGOs. The information gathered during these consultations has been important to better understand the intersection of child rights and the work of the Office. It was also crucial to take into account the views of children, or those violated as children, with regard to matters that affect them. The Office has been supported by Professor Diane Marie Amann, the Prosecutor’s Special Adviser on Children in and affected by Armed Conflict, during the process.

Child Rights Movement coordination meeting organized in Hyderabad by SPARC

The first meeting of the Child Rights Movement (CRM) Sindh chapter was held in Hyderabad, Sindh to chalk out a concrete plan and set of activities to be conducted by various organizations and also to finalize members in the advisory council of the CRM. Some of the major decisions taken during the meeting were:

  1. SPARC will establish the CRM-Sindh secretariat in Hyderabad while its other offices across Sindh (where available) will be made available for meeting, liaison, and coordination with CRM members.
  2. It will be mandatory for all member organizations and their representatives/focal persons to attend each CRM meeting. However, if due to unforeseen circumstances any member cannot attend the meeting, another individual should be appointed for an interim period by the head of the organization as the focal person. Any member organization who fails to participate in three (3) consecutive meetings, their voting rights will be taken away or the membership or the particular organization will be suspended for a particular time period.
  3. It was unanimously decided amongst all members that an ‘Executive Body’ and/or a ‘Working Group’ should be established based on organizations who were present during the meeting. Members who were made part of this new group/body were Mr. Rana Asif, Mr. Zahid Thebo, Mr. Akbar Dars and Mr Saleem Lashari. These newly chosen members will be responsible for preparing a set of TOR’s and share them amongst all CRM members.
  4. It was suggested by Ms. Sadia Hussein that a media briefing/consultation should be organized to highlight various issues based on the data of LRF-HARI.
  5. Annual fees for existing organization was set at Rs. 2000 while for new organizations, the registration fee was set at Rs. 5000 along with annual fee of Rs. 2000.
  6. It was also suggested that an online portal for CRM Members be created so as to enable them to upload various news updates or videos concerning matters related to child rights. These updates will also be shared on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. 
  7. At least one program a month related to issues on child rights will be aired on a local television channel.

Meeting between SPARC Executive Director and Secretary Labor Sindh

A meeting took place between SPARC’s Executive Director Ms. Sadia Hussein, Secretary Labor Sindh, Mr. Solangi and Director Labor, Mr. Mustafa Suhag on possible partnerships for the eradication of child labor and women economic empowerment in the province of Sindh.

6,793 children kidnapped from various cities of Punjab

The Punjab police informed the Supreme Court of Pakistan that 6,793 children were kidnapped from various cities of Punjab during the last six years, out of which 6,654 children were recovered but 139 children are still missing.

The police submitted a detailed report to a two-judge bench lead by Justice Main Saqib Nisar and Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman after a suo moto notice had been taken regarding the increase in the number of kidnapped children across the province of Punjab.

According to police report, 1,156 children were kidnapped in 2013 but the police managed to recover 1,150 of them while in 2014, 1,203 children were abducted but the police recovered 1,185 of them. Last year in 2015, 1,134 children were kidnapped but the police recovered 1,093 of the total number of kidnapped children.  The report further stated that most of the children kidnapped were aged between 6-15 years and a majority of them were taken from the cities of Lahore, Faisalabad, Bahawalpur and Bahawalnagar.  During 2016, around 52 children have been reported abducted from various cities across the province. On average, about 1,464 cases are registered across the province each year, and most of the children have either returned home or have been found by institutions such as the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau, Edhi Foundation and the police. Children who are abducted, leave home, run away, or go missing are reported to police invariably  as ‘abducted’ thus registering a criminal case against unknown people.

The report also highlighted many factors that led to children running away from home such as physical abuse from parents, family disputes, abduction by either parent, or threat of punishment in madrassah’s and so on.  A district-wise breakdown of statistics related to abducted children reveals most of them have been taken from large urban centers such as Lahore (44), Rawalpindi (18), Sheikhupura (8), Okara (4), Sialkot (3), Faisalabad (3), Sargodha (3) and Bahawalpur (2).

With 9.8m stunted children, Pakistan ranks 3rd in world

Pakistan is ranked third in the world with approximately 9.8 million children under the age of five years suffering from stunted growth. India topped the list of top ten countries with 48 million stunted children followed by Nigeria at the second position with 10 million such children.
The statistics were revealed in a report titled ‘Caught Short: How a Lack of Toilets and Clean Water Contributes to Malnutrition’ published by WaterAid. Others in the top ten list included Indonesia, China, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, DR Congo, Philippines and Tanzania.

According to the report, 45 per cent of Pakistani children are stunted; nearly 9 per cent of the population does not have access to clean water while 39 per cent do not have access to decent sanitation. In terms of percentage of stunted children amongst the overall population of children, Pakistan is ranked eighth in the ten worst places in the world with Timor-Leste topping the list with 58 per cent such children.

The report also stated that currently 159 million children in the world are stunted as a result of malnutrition and their cognitive/physical growth damaged irreversibly by their inability to obtain and absorb the nutrients they need. Malnutrition is linked to infections, worm infestations and diarrheal illnesses caused by dirty water, poor sanitation and a lack of hygiene including hand washing with soap.

Hundreds 'disappeared' by security forces in Egypt, says Amnesty

Hundreds of Egyptians have been forcibly disappeared and tortured in a sinister campaign to wipe out peaceful dissent in the most populous country in the Arab world revealed a report by Amnesty International.

Children as young as 14 years of age as well as students, political activists and protesters have vanished without trace after security forces raided their homes. Many have been held for months at a time and kept blindfolded and handcuffed. To date, around 34,000 people are behind bars as admitted by the Egyptian government.

Most of those who have disappeared are supporters of Mohamed Morsi, the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood president who was deposed in July 2013 and eventually replaced by president Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi.

Amnesty’s report also mentions the case of the Italian Giulio Regeni, the Cambridge graduate student who was found dead, with his body bearing signs of torture, in Cairo in February 2016.

“The terrible injuries sustained by Giulio Regeni are similar to those suffered by numerous people interrogated by the Egyptian security forces; his case is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Amnesty’s Felix Jakens in an interview. She further stated that Amnesty International fears that Mr. Regeni was abducted by state agents and tortured to death, and that an independent investigation be undertaken to ascertain the facts behind his death.

Hundreds of people are thought to be secretly held in the national security agency offices inside the interior ministry building located in Lazoghly Square, Cairo. The building is close to Tahrir Square, scene of the mass protests that led to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in January 2011, the high point of the Arab spring.

“Enforced disappearance has become a key instrument of state policy in Egypt,” said Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director Philip Luther. “Anyone who dares to speak out is at risk, with counter-terrorism being used as an excuse to abduct, interrogate and torture people who challenge the authorities.

The report says prosecutors have based charges on “confessions” extracted under duress and failed to investigate torture allegations by ordering medical examinations. On the rare occasions, where detainees have been referred by prosecutors to an independent medical examination, their lawyers have not been permitted to see the results.

Amnesty catalogues the cases of 17 people who were held incommunicado for periods ranging between several days to seven months and denied access to their lawyers or families or any independent judicial oversight.

Victims and witnesses said a typical disappearance starts with security officers in plain clothes, supported by heavily-armed and black-clad special forces arriving at a suspect’s home at night or in the early hours and forcing their way in at gunpoint. Once inside, the officers detain, handcuff and blindfold the suspects, search for weapons and other incriminatory material and seize mobile phones and computers.

Nearly 96,000 unaccompanied children sought EU asylum in 2015

Nearly 96,000 refugee and migrant children who traveled to Europe alone in 2015 sought asylum in the European Union, almost four times as many as the previous year, stated an EU agency report.

More than half the unaccompanied minors were Afghans, followed by Syrians and Eritreans, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) said in its annual report for 2015.

Over a million people fleeing wars and conflict in the Middle East, Africa and Asia reached the EU last year in the continent's biggest migration crisis since World War Two.

More than 1.4 million people, mostly Syrians and Afghans, sought international protection in the EU in 2015, up 110 percent from 2014 and the highest number since the EU began collecting data in 2008.

The number of Syrians who applied rose three-fold to 380,000. Nearly 200,000 Afghans also applied, more than four times the number of applications in 2014.

The unprecedented rise in asylum applications led to shortages of accommodations in many member states, the report said that often leading to temporary deterioration of reception standards and delays in accessing them.