ERG says ‘We are lagging behind on young people’s rights’
‘Equality Rights Group is not satisfied that sufficient importance and priority are being given to the rights of young people. We are lagging behind,’ the group’s Chairman, Felix Alvarez, explained in a statement to media.
‘And there are two important issues and areas we have in mind specifically.
‘Firstly, the UK ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in December 1991. Twenty-five years later, Gibraltar’s young people still do not have the same protections. ERG has been following up this unacceptable indifference for some years now. Previous Justice Minister, Gilbert Licudi, followed up on our enquiries and assured us all bureaucracy had now been satisfied in order for the UK to extend the Convention to our children on the Rock. Yet we have seen Government take no further action, and it is time Ministers showed interest on this matter by pressing on the British Government to delay no more.
‘In a separate but related concern for us,’ Mr Alvarez continued, ‘the Council of Europe’s CPT Committee’s visit to Gibraltar’s detention facilities in November 2014 led to a formal Report on their findings a year later. The Committee’s job is to safeguard in favour of human treatment throughout member States. It was their inspection that first shone a spotlight on the inadequacy of our systems for dealing with the reality of juvenile convicted offenders here in Gibraltar.
‘To be brief, that Report pointed out that the Windmill Hill Prison ‘is not a suitable place to accommodate juveniles’, and goes on to add that as long as juveniles are kept there ‘additional efforts must be made to provide them with a full range of purposeful activities and socio-educative support’. Three years later, we are not satisfied there has been a substantial movement in this direction.
‘We were, nonetheless, recently gladdened to hear the parliamentary statement by the Minister for Justice, Neil Costa, regarding indications that GoG has started to move on the possibility of creating separate facilities for juvenile offenders. We are less satisfied, however, by the lack of concrete details or commitment regarding the Committee’s very important points in which they speak of the requirement for a full range of purposeful activities to be made available, not ‘possibly’, not ‘if’ but now as we speak and during the period that young prisoners are still held in a prison which the Committee, and we believe the Government as well, recognise as being de facto not adequate for their needs.
‘Having initially followed up GoG’s responses to the Committee’s recommendations, ERG has sought input from other concerned and implicated Civil Society NGO’s, notably the Gibraltar Mental Welfare Society and rehabilitation group Stay Clean. Together, we have taken the due time to carefully study Government’s specific responses to a range of areas raised by the Committee.
‘We will shortly be submitting a further follow-up document of enquiry to the Minister for Justice, in the hope that, having waited a substantial period of time in the interim, the many previous responses in which the Ministry’s only indication was that the matter was ‘under consideration’ will now have, in the main, been settled and information made available for public information and scrutiny,’ the statement ended.