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.
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.
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: