On 11. September 2013 during the 24th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva,as one of the panelists, Francis Ssuubi, Executive Director, Wells for Hope, said that it was very traumatizing for children to live in fear of their parent’s execution. Children with a parent on death row faced a higher risk of mental health difficulties, such as sleeping problems, low self-esteem and eating disorders. In addition, they faced other risks, such as early marriages, school dropout or rape. Child-friendly criminal justice systems were needed; States had to ensure that children could maintain contact with their parent in prison.
Flavia Pansieri, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, delivered the opening remarks."Children of parents sentenced to death are also subjected to the tension, the trauma, that comes from the situation the parent is in, but they themselves can also be subject to discrimination when the fact of having a parent sentenced to death or executed is seen as if the child him or herself were considered equally responsible whatever is the crime that led to that sentencing." (32")
REMIGIUSCZ A. HENCZEL, President of the Human Rights Council, chaired the day's discussion.
Bertrand De Crombrugghe, Permanent Representative of Belgium to the United Nations Office at Geneva was the panel moderator,
The other panelists were Jorge Cardona Llorens, Member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child; Sandra Jones, Associate Professor, Rowan University; and Nisreen Zerikat, National Centre for Human Rights of Jordan
FRANCIS SSUUBI, said he welcomed the sympathy speakers expressed toward children of convicted with parents on death row or executed .However, pragmatic action required to counter the problems these children go through and to prevent the cycle of pain and abuse that the children of those executed or sentenced to death were being put through. Francis said these children’s plight could be compared to holding a rat by its tail for a long time time – an unnecessary prolongation of trauma.
In his closing remarks, Francis said that more research was needed on this important topic. It was necessary to establish the number of children with a parent in prison and to help them and to bring them out of invisibility. The most important thing for those children was to visit their imprisoned parent. The children should be allowed to regularly see their parents without unnecessary restrictions. Schools should be involved, because they could provide children with the appropriate assistance. The international community should stop talking and start acting.
The proceedings of the panel can be seen here. Francis also spoke on the panel of a Human Rights Council side event the following day, stressing the need to invest in children visiting their parents on death row and other issues related to children of parents sentenced to death were further discussed.
Read the entire statement below.
Read more about the issue in the report from the panel discussion here.