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International Human Rights Day: Let's give our youth the human rights they deserve.

Posted in 2016, Across the Country Friday, 09 December 2016

International Human Rights Day: Let's give our youth the human rights they deserve.

By Anne-Lise Vray, Communications Associate

Human Rights are defined by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) as “rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status.” Such rights are protected by the law, including international treaties like the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the US has signed in 1995 but failed to ratify since then.

During his 2008 campaign, President Obama described the failure to ratify the Convention as "embarrassing" and promised to review this and other treaties in order to “ensure that the United States resumes its global leadership in Human Rights.” Eight years later, the United States sadly remains the only country in the world that has not ratified the treaty.

Yet the CRC provides essential protections for children that we should not have to still be fighting for in 2016. For example, on the question of youth in the adult criminal justice system, the treaty says that “every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults.” Young Americans should not be the only ones to be denied essential rights that all the other nations across the globe have agreed upon. Yet each year in the US, 200,000 youth are put into the adult criminal justice system and 95,000 are held in adult jails and prisons. In 22 states and the District of Columbia, children as young as 7 can be prosecuted as adults.

Today is International Human Rights Day, a perfect occasion to remember that the US still lags behind on many human rights issues, one of which is children rights. In order to “resume its global leadership in Human Rights ” – or at least meet what seem like basic human rights standards – the country must end the practice of jailing children with adults and transferring children to adult court, and make it official to the rest of the world.