Mr Palm's notes during the opening of the workshop "Towards achieving full implementation of the Right to Education and Reintegration programme for juveniles in the penitentiary in Albania" organized in Kavaja on 22 November 2012
We have come a long way, and I don't mean that we had to travel far. We are here in Kavaja because it is the model. But today and tomorrow we are trying to achieve again something very specific and significant. All concerned representatives of the education and penitentiary institutions working with juveniles, civil society, NGOs and other institutions, are here to discuss the next steps to ensure the education and reintegration for all juveniles in detention. (At least they were invited).
Juvenile justice is of particular relevance to any legal system. It reflects the commitment of society to promote the rule of law. It aims to reintegrate those who had a brush with the law. For many years we have supported the development of a Juvenile Justice System that has the capacity to divert and offer alternatives to detention for juveniles. This is the best method to prevent that juveniles get caught in a vicious circle of crime and punishment. There has been tangible progress, especially with the probation services and the help of NGOs. But we are not there yet.
Too many juveniles are in detention while they wait for their case to be heard in court. Almost 70 percent of juveniles complete their entire court sentence with the time they spent in pre-trial detention. This is the same as being sentenced without trial. This is a grave human rights violations. Pre-trial detention must only be used when all other options are exhausted.
Because pre-trial detention is meant to be short, not enough attention is paid to the conditions in pre-trial, including legal, psychosocial, education and reintegration measures. Young offenders who spend long time in pre-trial detention are mostly from poor families, and have not completed education. Education is key for getting into a normal rhythm of life. Education is central any reintegration strategy.
Kavaja is the model. I see Mr Van den Brand who helped to develop a regime that promotes reintegration, which is the same as the best institutions in Europe. We met only few times, but I have learned a lot from you. Around the table are NGOs - friends and activists - who contributed to the success. I admire you all. Kavaja is still in the early years. Challenges remain, but the model is here and should be replicated. This is what we are trying to do now.
Last year, Mr Robert Badinter, former Justice Minister of France and a famous human right activist helped UNICEF to advocate for the rights of children in detention. He came to Kavaja and Lezha and met with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice and other high officials. He called upon authorities to do the utmost for ensuring the right to education in detention. Lets be clear. A child is entitled to education, even if the parents don't pay the electricity bill, or if the child commits a crime.
I am told that the Ministry of Education has ensured the appointment of teachers in all the pre-trial detention sites. This is very good. I am hopeful that this event will come up with the practical decisions to ensure that juveniles in detention complete their education, and that education remains at the centre of reintegration programmes.
I have visited Kavaja many times and talked to the kids. They come from very difficult backgrounds. They appreciate the care and the opportunities in Kavaja. I knew one who wanted to finish school in Kavaja rather than being sent home. This building - funded by EU - has helped to create all the conditions to do that. I met many of the teachers and educators. It is you that make the difference!
I commend you for the work that you do. I call upon the recently appointed staff, teachers and educators to follow the example of the work in Kavaja. All of us are here to help the Ministries of Education and Justice in making sure that all children in detention enjoy their right to education. I look forward to your concrete and practical plans.