By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
"UNICEF is concerned with the numerous reports of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials during protests and in places of detention, including against children.”
Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, and the Special Coordinator for the Refuge and Migrant Response in Europe spoke these words on Friday during the UN Human Rights Council’s urgent debate on Belarus.
She went on to cite reports estimating that 240 minors are facing “administrative charges for engaging in largely peaceful demonstrations.”
Articles 13 and 15 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child extends the “right to freedom of expression” and “freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly” to children, she reminded the Human Rights Council.
Ms Khan also stated that “arrest, detention or imprisonment” of any child is always a last resort measure, that parents or guardians must be informed and present during any subsequent procedures.
She ending, urging that children’s rights be fully respected and protected in Belarus “in accordance with international human rights law.” UNICEF, she said is continuing to monitor the situation.
Pope Francis on protests
Just this past Sunday, speaking after delivering his Angelus message, Pope Francis spoke out regarding the many demonstrations and protests taking place throughout the world. He said these protests “express the growing disappointment” people have regarding certain critical “political and social situations.” Addressing leaders, he urged them to “listen to the voice of their citizens and welcome their just aspirations assuring complete respect for human rights and civil liberties.”