Norbert Fanou-Ako protects children in Benin’s cycle of violence

December 8, 2015

In the series “10 December, 10 Defenders” [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/10-december-10-defenders-profiles-of-human-rights-defenders-against-torture/]the OMCT publishes today the case of “Benin: Meet Norbert: Better protecting children to break Benin’s cycle of violence. “Violence is the first inheritance of a child born within a violent family,” says Norbert Fanou-Ako.  As director of a non-governmental organization called Solidarity for Children in Africa and the World (ESAM) he is trying to break Benin’s vicious cycle of violence. The violence deeply engrained in this country starts at home and in school with commonplace whipping, caning, slapping and other uses of ill-treatment against children and then extends to regular beatings to force confessions out of suspected juvenile delinquents at police stations.

Though Benin ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture in 2006, its criminal legislation still does not include the « principle of absolute prohibition of torture », nor state that executing orders from a superior is not a justification of torture, nor forbid the use of confessions obtained through torture.  In 2007, in its second review of the country’s implementation of the Convention the United Nations Committee Against Torture had encouraged Benin to ensure the strict enforcement of legislation prohibiting corporal punishment in the family, schools and within institutions other than schools and to conduct awareness-raising and educational campaigns to stop such violence.

Things, however, have not improved that much since, especially with regards to children in conflict with the law. These are especially vulnerable, when in fact the State should grant them special measures to prevent situations of risk, and safeguard their life and physical integrity.

In 2011, the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture ­­– which is currently visiting the country again – asked Benin to take steps to ensure that: “children are not held in initial custody except as a genuinely last resort; they are held separately from adults; their rights are fully and clearly explained to children in a way that is readily understandable; a relative or trusted person is immediately informed of the custody of the child concerned; no child is subjected to questioning without the presence of a trusted adult; no child is subjected to restraint while in a custody cell.

Trained in banking and human resources, Norbert, 64, is trying in a joint project of ESAM with OMCT that involves monthly visits to civil prisons, regular trainings and meetings with authorities, to disseminate such recommendations of the CAT, the SPT, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child among all those dealing with children’s justice and child delinquency – from lawyers, to magistrates, to policemen, village chiefs, and to civil society.

They all have to understand that children must spend the least time possible in jail,” he says. “Only a few days in prison are enough to scar the life of a child for ever; it’s a time bomb for society.

— by Lori Brumat in GenevaOMCT-LOGO

Source: Benin: Meet Norbert: Better protecting children to break Benin’s cycle of violence / December 8, 2015 / Links / Human rights defenders / OMCT

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