European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Juveniles deprived of their liberty
under criminal legislation
Extract from the 24th General Report of the CPT,
published in 2015
In 1998, in its 9th General Report, the CPT set out the criteria which guide its work when
visiting places where “juveniles” (i.e. persons under the age of 181) are deprived of their liberty. In
particular, it identified a number of safeguards which should be offered to all juveniles deprived of
their liberty under criminal legislation and the conditions which should obtain in detention centres
specifically designed for juveniles. The Committee considers that the time is ripe to review these
standards based upon its visit experience since 1998 and taking into consideration developments at
the European and universal levels, focusing at this stage on the deprivation of liberty of juveniles in
the criminal law context.
At the outset, the CPT reiterates that its standards should be viewed as complementary to
those set out in international instruments, notably the 1989 United Nations Convention on the
Rights of the Child and Recommendation CM/Rec (2008) 11 of the Committee of Ministers of the
Council of Europe to member states on the European Rules for juvenile offenders subject to
sanctions or measures (“European rules for young offenders”), which provides a detailed set of
rules for the treatment of juvenile offenders in Europe.2 The Committee subscribes wholeheartedly
to the cardinal principles enshrined in Articles 3 and 37.b of the Convention on the Rights of the
Child and in Rules 5 and 10 of the European Rules for juvenile offenders, namely that in all action
concerning juveniles, their best interests shall be a primary consideration and that they should only
be deprived of their liberty as a last resort and for the shortest possible period of time.
In the majority of Council of Europe member states, the minimum age of criminal responsibility is fixed at the
age of 14 or 15 years, while, in a few countries, the minimum age ranges from eight to 13 years.
See also the 1985 United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice
(“Beijing Rules”), the 1990 United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty (“Havana
Rules”), the 1990 United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (“Riyadh Guidelines”) and the
2010 Guidelines of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on child friendly justice.