Mr Palm's remarks during the launching event of “Fostering implementation of restorative justice and victim-offender mediation" on 9 March 2012
Last year, on the 13th of December, I attended the National Conference on Probation. I noted with satisfaction the progress made. From its establishment in 2009 until September 2011, 639 juveniles have been referred to probation. The juveniles were primarily referred to community services orders, but also other alternatives to detention. These numbers have changed by now, and I hope that alternative sentencing becomes the norm - not the exception - for juveniles who found themselves on the wrong side of the law. UNICEF supported, along with Community Service Orders, the introduction of diversion and restorative justice as preferred solution for juveniles. Let’s remember that juveniles are not half adults that need half the sentence. The juveniles need for education and rehabilitation and a second chance calls for a different sentence, and probation is key.
With funding from EU and Sida, we - UNICEF - started to support diversion schemes for juveniles in 2007 together with the Albanian Foundation for Conflict Resolution and the Police in Tirana. Now the programme is present in 6 cities. It is a promising initiative. It needs to be used more frequently, more systematically, for juveniles in all stages of the judiciary process. 240 juvenile cases were diverted each year just by this programme.
Today I am glad to see that cooperation of institutions will be further strengthened with the probation services, for even increased use restorative justice and mediation. It helps victims and offender to leave behind the old conflict and it prevent further escalation. This new programme builds on its earlier success. I am told that more than 100 referrals for juveniles in the age of 14 to 21 years of age have already occurred during the past 12 months, and 80 of these cases have been resolved. The new support to probation is a guarantee that a larger number of victims and offenders will be served - through the partnership of the Albanian Foundation for Conflict Resolution and the Probation Services.
I like to use this opportunity to reiterate, that still 4 out of 5 juveniles in the penitentiary are kept in detention while awaiting trial. Almost 70% of them will be spending their entire sentence awaiting trial. It is a violation of the presumption of innocence. It is a violation of their human rights. Long pre-trial detention is an indicator showing that the arrest, investigation period, and time for judicial process need to be better regulated. The revision of the Code of Criminal Procedure will help. Better criteria for when to use alternatives to detention and probation need to be in place. A shorter time limit must be included into the law regarding the pre-trial detention of juveniles.
Albania needs to put an end to the practice of keeping juvenile in detention for long period before they are sentenced. Especially, as the conditions in pre-trial detention are generally not adequate. Education needs to be provided also in pre-trial detention. We have discussed this with the Ministry of Justice and have been assured that the situation will be corrected. We still need a stronger commitment from the Ministry of Education.
Before closing, I like to mention that UNICEF has agreed to assist the Ministry of Justice in piloting electronic monitoring of juveniles, who thus can continue to participate in social life so necessary for their development. This is an experiment, and we will be working with the authorities to develop the relevant protocols and orientation. The best interest of the child will guide the partners in this endeavor.
I like to thank the EU for the continued partnership and their generous support for the juvenile justice reform in Albania. I would like also to commend the work being done by Probation Services and the Albanian Foundation for conflict resolution!