Teenagers to speak at UN on Scotland’s human rights record

EJ Carroll and Katrina Lambert will address the UN in Geneva on Monday Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA

Two Scottish teenagers are set to become the youngest people ever to address the UN’s Committee Against Torture.

EJ Carroll and Katrina Lambert, both 18, will give evidence on Scotland’s human rights record to the Committee on Monday, supported by the Children’s and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland (CYPCS) in their roles as Human Rights Defenders.

The evidence session will inform the Committee as it prepares to examine the UK Government on Tuesday over where the UK and devolved governments currently fail to meet international human rights obligations.

Focus on Scotland will include the Committee hearing about the age of criminal responsibility, the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, physical punishment of children and the use of so-called mosquito devices.

Ahead of speaking to the Committee, EJ Carroll, who is from Midlothian, said: “Children and young people have the right to be included and our views taken seriously at the highest levels when it comes to issues that affect our lives.”

Katrina Lambert, from Edinburgh, added: “Having young people at the heart of the UN is absolutely crucial. We’re so excited to have this opportunity to address the Committee but we don’t want to an exception to the norm; children and young people should be included here and in other places of influence.”

CYPCS Bruce Adamson said it was important that young people made their own case to the UN about the issues that affect children and young people’s lives including the age at which children are criminalised.

“The Scottish Government wants to be a human rights leader but is acting contrary to that by choosing to set the age at which we criminalise children at 12,” Mr Adamson said.

He added: “This debate has seen unprecedented interventions from the United Nations and the Council of Europe who have been absolutely clear that anything below 14 years cannot be justified in human rights terms.

“The positive and progressive things we do in Scotland don’t allow us to ignore international minimums which apply to all countries.

“Only last week, the First Minister announced a commitment to fully protect the rights of children by incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law, by the end of this Parliament in 2021.

“While this announcement is to be applauded, it shouldn’t distract from the areas where Scotland is clearly failing, areas that young people themselves will evidence in Geneva on Monday.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Human rights has been one of the undoubted successes of devolution. The Scotland Act and The Human Rights Act, taken together, transformed the context in which human rights issues are considered and decided in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government has adopted a rights-based approach to key social policies, such as new social security powers. The Human Rights Leadership Group, established by the Scottish Government in 2018, will determine how best to extend human rights protections.

“Rights and protections for children are key to our ambition for Scotland to be the best place in the world for children to grow up. The First Minister has confirmed that by 2021 we will fully incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law.

“In raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12, we are leading the way in the UK, and in international terms, Scotland already has a leading, progressive approach to justice issues for young people. The Minister for Children and Young People has signalled the Government’s intention to allow consideration for future changes, and will set up an advisory group to do so.

“We are delighted that two young people from Scotland will be giving evidence to the committee. We agree that their views should be taken seriously at the highest levels. That is why we made sure to listen to the views of hundreds of children and young people from all over Scotland on our proposals to raise the age of criminal responsibility.”