JUVENILE JUSTICE REFORM PICKS UP PACE IN AZERBAIJAN
The Center for Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency and Child Rights Legal Clinic Opens in Baku followed by a “Juvenile Justice System Reforms” conference
The Center for Prevention of Juvenile delinquency and rehabilitation of juveniles in conflict with the law, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Interior, UNICEF, OSCE and NGO Alliance for Children’s Rights, opened its doors on April 30, 2008.
The project is implemented in close cooperation with Ministry of Interior and Narimanov district Police Department and Narimanov district Commissions on minors’ affairs and protection of their rights, Narimanov district Court and Prosecutor office. It is also part of the joint efforts on juvenile justice based on the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Interior, UNICEF, OSCE and NGO Alliance for Children’s Rights.
The high-level officials from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Labor and Social protection, Human Rights Commissioner (Ombudsman), UNICEF, OSCE, The British Embassy, OHCHR as well as civil society and media representatives will take part in the opening ceremony.
The purpose of the Center for Prevention of juvenile delinquency is to provide psycho-social rehabilitation services for families and children, referred by police and the commission on minors’ affairs. The Center is staffed by psychologist, psychotherapeutic specialist, two social workers, pedagogue, sport teacher and lawyer to support the provision of full range of services needed for successful rehabilitation and reintegration of these children.
The Child Rights legal clinic also part of the project is aimed at provision of free legal aid and counseling services for children and their families in all areas of child rights and child welfare. In partnership with the Ministry of Education the Clinic is also involved in the review process of cases of children from Mardakan and Guba special education institutions for juveniles; the main goal of this review is to return the children back to their families through provision of effective remedies for correction of their behavior as alternative to their placement in the specialized institutions.
“It is our hope that these efforts will help the juvenile reform to pick up pace in Azerbaijan. The combined efforts by police, the courts, local and international NGOs is starting to have an impact in the country. There is a growing realization that depriving children who are in conflict with the law of their liberty is often unnecessary or even counter-productive," said Hanaa Singer UNICEF Azerbaijan Representative.
“If a child commits an offence, it means some party – the parents, the community, the state – failed in the obligation to protect the rights of that child. Very few young people commit offences out of choice. For all young offenders, prevention is preferred above punishment,” she said.
The opening of the center and the clinic was followed the same day by the “Juvenile Justice System Reforms in Azerbaijan” conference, organized with the support from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNICEF and NGO Alliance for Children Rights.
The conference brought together governmental officials, representatives of law enforcement agencies, international organizations and non-governmental agencies who work with children in conflict with the law, with the aim to review ongoing juvenile justice reform process and further discuss practical ways for the improvement of the juvenile justice system in Azerbaijan.
Ayna Mollazade, Communication Officer