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EOP on Administration of Justice
September 26, 2013

Explanation of Position of the U.S. Delegation

UN Human Rights Council – 24th Session

September 26, 2013


The United States is pleased to join consensus on this year’s resolution on human rights in the administration of justice. We welcome the continued focus on issues related to women and children in the justice system. We are committed to the idea that States should address the vulnerability of women, juveniles and children to violence, abuse, and injustice, and to the importance of integrating women’s, juveniles’, and children’s issues into rule of law and justice programs and policies. We also see the need for such vigilance with regard to the situation of persons with disabilities, especially children with disabilities, who may be vulnerable to violence, abuse, injustice or humiliation while deprived of their liberty.

We thank the sponsors of this resolution for incorporating some of our suggestions into this text. However, as in the past, we were unable to co-sponsor this resolution due to concerns that the resolution calls upon States to comply with various principles that are not obligations that the United States has undertaken. For example, the resolution rightly emphasizes the importance of the interests of the child when deciding on sentencing a parent or primary care-giver, but we note that other factors such as public safety are also important. The resolution also calls upon States to ensure that life imprisonment is not imposed on individuals under the age of 18. This requirement is not an obligation that customary international law imposes on States.

Similarly, the resolution calls upon States to enact or review legislation to ensure that any conduct not considered a criminal offense, or not penalized if committed by an adult, is not considered a criminal offense or penalized if committed by a child. The approach is generally consistent with the U.S. Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which provides that juveniles who commit status offenses should not be placed in secure detention or correctional facilities. However, we note that the Act has exceptions for juveniles 1) charged with or who have committed a violation of federal or state law prohibiting the possession of a handgun; 2) who are charged with or who have committed a violation of a valid court order; and 3) who are held in accordance with the Interstate Compact on Juveniles as enacted by the individual state. The United States cannot agree to enact legislation eliminating juvenile status offenses because these matters are regulated by individual states and the United States could not order changes to state law in this area.

We interpret the resolution as re-affirming all such obligations to the extent that States have accepted them.