UN Acts on IU McKinney Law Student-Initiated Cape Verdean Child Abuse Report
The United Nations Human Rights Committee recently voiced concerns over the corporal punishment and sexual abuse of children in Cape Verde after Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law students and Delta Cultura Cabo Verde presented a report about those issues at the UN Headquarters in New York. The report was produced under the auspices of the law school's Program in International Human Rights Law. PIHRL was awarded "special consultative status" from the UN last summer, making it one of only 2,000 organizations from 200 countries to have such distinction.
The student-initiated report titled “Cape Verde Breaches its Duty to Prevent and Combat Corporal Punishment and Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of Tarrafal, Santiago School Children, and Thus Violates Articles 2, 7 & 24 of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR)” was endorsed by the law school’s Program in International Human Rights Law, directed by Professor George Edwards, and the Delta Cultura Cabo Verde, an NGO based in Tarrafal, Santiago, Cape Verde. The students belonged to the IU McKinney School of Law-based International Human Rights Law Society (IHRLS).
Comprised of 18 independent experts from various nations, the UN Human Rights Committee oversees the enforcement and implementation of the ICCPR by states parties. In its 6-page concluding observations adopted on March 28, 2012, the committee bewailed “reports of frequent use of corporal punishment by teachers” and urged Cape Verde to “take practical steps to put an end to corporal punishment in all settings.” See the full concluding observations at UN Human Rights Committee > Cape Verde http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/hrcs104.htm
“The State party should act vigorously against the use of corporal punishment in schools, should promote non-violent forms of discipline as alternatives to corporal punishment, and should conduct public information campaigns to raise awareness about its harmful effects,” the committee stated.
The committee came up with its observations after a formal meeting with the Cape Verdean ambassador to the UN. Earlier, Florian Wegenstein, co-founder and project manager of Delta Cultura Cabo Verde, and IHRLS officers Katherine Cook and Timothy Weber, along with visiting scholar Zuo Quan, met and briefed committee members in private about those issues. Wegenstein also highlighted the scourge of sexual abuse and corporal punishment in Cape Verde when he and the IHRLS officers orally intervened during the official, closed-door meeting of the committee. (Pictured above outside of UN headquarters in New York are students Weber and Cook with Wegenstein).
A Ph.D. candidate at China’s Southeast University, Quan appreciated his participation in the UN proceedings, saying, “This is the first time I was involved in a shadow report program and felt very lucky to work with a creative and industrious team consisting of J.D. students under the leadership of Prof. George Edwards and Mr. Perfecto Boyet Caparas. It was amazing especially since I got a chance to attend the session of the UN Human Rights Committee in New York City.”
“That was a really precious and impressive experience for me as a visiting scholar at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law,” Quan said. “This opportunity is beyond my imagination.”
For her part, Cook said, “The committee seemed to address our issues and take them quite seriously. With respect to corporal punishment, the ambassador even admitted that it is a widespread issue there.”
IHRLS president Leontiy Korolev, ’12, said, “Outside of the legal research, writing and editing, this project presented challenges not found in any law school class. We worked with an NGO in Cape Verde to put the report together in spite of a time crunch, language barriers, power outages, and a general lack of access to the internet on the other side of the Atlantic.”
Co-author Aimee Heitz, ’12, commented, “Writing the shadow report has been a rewarding experience. Not only do we get the practical experience of legal writing, but we learn a little more about the world and help prevent human rights violations globally.”