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Mr Palm's address during the International Consortium Plenary on 19 April 2011

International Consortium plenary 

I have been asked to speak on behalf of the juvenile justice subcommittee. The subcommittee met four times last year. Its members are the Ministry of Justice, including Probation and Penitentiary, UNICEF, OSCE, EU, CoE, Ministry of Interior, and key national and international NGOs.

The overall theme of this conference - “addressing the recommendation of EC on Albania” – also includes the strengthening of juvenile rights and reduction of detention time for juveniles. Both issues are of critical in Albania’s effort to reform the administration of the juvenile justice system, in line with guiding principle of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, article 37 and 40, and the Council of Europe Guidelines for Child Friendly Justice Systems.

Progress of juvenile justice reform has been tangible in recent years. We have to congratulate government and all stakeholders for this. The system has become more humane. Increasingly, alternative measures to detention are applied for juveniles. Although in its early stage of development, the probation system is gradually extended to the whole country. Albania has now an institute for reintegration of juveniles which works well and focuses on preparing reintegration of juveniles in society. Still, in our opinion there are areas of concern.

Some, but not all concerns have already been raised last year, in the same consortium. The fact that 70% of juveniles spent their court sentence while awaiting trial is of a serious importance. It is, in fact, a human rights issue. We haven’t seen much progress here. The situation is not reflective of the requirement to use detention as measure of last resort for juveniles and their presumption of innocence .

Four weeks ago I was in Kavaja. There we met a young boy. He is detained in Kavaja for a theft he committed 2 days after his 14th birthday.  He is from Durres and belongs to the Egyptian community. He comes from very poor background. He admits to his crime. He is now 15, still waiting to go before a court of first degree. He has been in pre-detention for one year, at a time when he should see opportunities instead of prison walls.
In relation to this some questions arise:
• What are the criteria for the use of detention for juveniles – is it used as a measure of last resort for children as it should be? Is the system of inspection functioning?
• Is the principle of presumption of innocence being respected?
• Who is benefiting from locking children awaiting trial? The child? The victim? The community? His family? The justice system? The public budget?
• Why does it take so long for children to go trial?  - We all know that justice delayed is justice denied.

I also like to mention the need for a fully developed system responding to children under the age of criminal responsibility that commit a crime. The law mentions education measures, without assigning specific responsibility. We know this is primarily an issue of social services, which require the involvement of education and other sectors, such as justice and health. I would like to remind ourselves about the need to:

• Support interventions and responses to targeted at children and teens considered at higher risk for delinquency and designed to ward off involvement in more serious delinquent behaviour. 
• Take measures for early identification of children with delinquent or quasi delinquent behaviour in order to treat them without becoming a case number in the justice system.
• Undertake and develop measures of educational nature, employment measures, measures for increasing the welfare and the living standard, social and health care services, as important and key tools for crime prevention.
• Set up educational or rehabilitation institutions in Albania – small and community based.

Let me also bring to the attention of the IC the key priority areas of intervention for 2011 that the Ministry of Justice and UNICEF under the guidance of the Juvenile Justice Subcommittee have agreed upon:
1. The strengthening of the probation services for juveniles - providing for more alternatives to detention and diversion for juveniles by supporting the new probation offices in Berat, Lushnje, Lezhe and Elbasan.
2. Improvement of services (especially free legal and psychosocial assistance) in pre-trial detention for juveniles.
3. Strengthening of the reintegration and introduction of post-care treatment for juveniles in detention in Kavaja.
4. The development of a strategy on Justice for Children. UNICEF supports the Ministry of Justice in designing a specific strategy and action plan that comprehensively addresses (i) children in conflict with the law, (ii) child victims and witnesses of crime, and (iii) children under the age of criminal prosecution. The strategy will provide an opportunity and a challenge, as its implementation will require legislative changes and funding allocations to enact the reform. A draft of the strategy is prepared and in the final phase for consultation with key stakeholders, which will include members of this forum. It will provide a long term plan for the administration of the juvenile justice system that is in line with UN guidelines and EU standards, including provisions for alternatives to detention, diversion options and consideration of the best interests of the child and society.

 

 
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