Police must allow young people to protest peacefully at COP-26, says Children’s Commissioner

Children’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson is urging police to treat young people peacefully protesting at COP-26 with respect and dignity – and has reminded them that children’s rights must be upheld for everyone under 18.

To support this approach, the Commissioner’s office has published a human rights guide today ‘Under 18? Your Human Rights At Protests: What You Need To Know‘ for children who plan to make their voices heard at the UN climate summit in Glasgow. The guide has been used as part of Police Scotland’s training for COP-26 and was informed by children’s views and experiences.

Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner said: “I have written to Police Scotland and have received strong commitments that they will facilitate peaceful protest with human rights at the heart of their approach, and it is important that this happens. Police officers have a duty to uphold children’s human rights during COP-26, which include the rights to peaceful assembly and association, alongside their rights to expression, participation, information and protection.”

Climate justice has been consistently raised by children and young people as one of their biggest human rights concerns.  

Emma, 16, a Young Adviser to the Commissioner, said: “The right to protest is important as it gives people the opportunity to create change. It gives us a voice and the ability to hold institutions accountable for their actions. It is one of the only ways young people can be heard and immediately have a connection with one another, creating a sense of unity. It promotes equality and allows for individuals and groups views to have a chance to be recognised.  The information in this guide about our rights to protest is really useful as we make our voices heard at COP-26 and beyond.”

The Commissioner added: “Children have shown incredible leadership on the issue of climate justice and continue to act as human rights defenders for everyone’s rights across Scotland and internationally. They have led powerful, peaceful movements in the streets, for example during school strikes, online, and in court. It is essential that children and young people are empowered to participate and engage in their right to peaceful protest.”

The Commissioner’s guide includes rights information and support, in the event of a child under 18 being arrested or detained by police.

The Commissioner said: “Arresting a child should always be a measure of last resort, however, it may happen, and children need to know their rights if it does. We’ve included information about children’s rights to contact their family, social worker and to speak to a lawyer, to complain and to ask for release. Any child arrested or detained must be treated with human dignity and respect.”  

The Commissioner repeated his call that no child should be punished for taking part in peaceful protests: “There must be no reprisals or sanctions for children who peacefully protest during COP-26 and schools should support children to participate in the opportunities that COP-26 affords them.”

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