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Minors incarcerated in the El Carmen Education Centre v. Director of the Honduran Institute for Children and Family

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Court/Judicial body: Supreme Court of Honduras (Suprema de Justicia de Honduras)
Date: April 20, 2006 CRC
Provisions: Article 3: Best interests of the child
Other international provisions: United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners
Domestic provisions: Honduran Constitution, Article 182

Case summary

Background: The Special Prosecutor filed suit against the Director of the Honduran Institute for Children and Family on behalf of the children incarcerated at the El Carmen Education Centre. During his investigation, the Special Prosecutor uncovered numerous incidents of sexual abuse and found the facility to be uninhabitable, leading to both a high risk of infectious diseases and lasting psychological effects that hinder rehabilitation. Given the Director’s responsibility to ensure the care of children in custody, the Special Prosecutor demanded that he improve the conditions of detention and take measures designed to respect the children’s human rights and meet their basic needs.

Issue and resolution: Juvenile justice; detention. The Supreme Court set a plan and a one-year deadline for the Director to remedy the violations of children’s rights occurring at the Centre, urged the Honduran Government to bring its laws and policies on children in detention in line with the Constitution and international human rights instruments, and called on the Attorney General to monitor the implementation of these policies.

Court reasoning: No person should be subjected to cruel or degrading treatment that violates their human dignity as guaranteed under national and international law, and the Government must radically alter the conditions at the Education Centre to ensure that this does not occur. Specifically, Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that institutions responsible for the care or protection of children comply with national laws and standards, particularly those that relate to matters of health and safety. The Honduran Constitution additionally obligates the Government to protect all citizens, especially those who are disadvantaged or marginalised like the children in the Education Centre. And lastly, the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners set out conditions of detention for rehabilitative institutions that must be respected.

Excerpt citing CRC and other relevant human rights WHEREAS, Article 3, paragraph 3 of the Convention On the Rights of the Child provides that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care and protection of minors shall comply with standards established by the competent authorities, especially in terms of safety, health, number of staff, and in relation to the existence of adequate monitoring, and that all measures be taken to meet these standards, such as allocating the maximum resources available for this purpose.

CRIN comments: CRIN believes this decision is consistent with the CRC. Children in detention have the same rights and are end to the same protections as children who have not been deprived of their liberty. As recognised by the court, these children are in an especially vulnerable position and must be treated in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international standards.

Citation: Menores de Edad Internos en el Centro Pedagogico El Carmen vs. Director o encardgao de La Junta Interventora del Instituto Hondureno de La Ninez Y La Familia, Suprema de Justicia de Honduras, Sentencia del 20 Abril de 2006

Link to Full Judgment: