„Child-Friendly“ Room equipped in the Tuzla Police
Tuzla Police Station has equipped a “child-friendly” room to ensure that children in contact with the justice system (i.e. victims, witness or alleged perpetrators of criminal acts) will be interrogated in a manner as less traumatizing as possible, and in accordance with international standards.
Representatives of Tuzla Police, Municipality and Canton as well as representatives of UNICEF and donors, Swiss and Swedish ambassadors in BiH, and the NGO Human Rights Office Tuzla attended the ceremony held on 18.10.2011.
Equipping the “child-friendly rooms” in police stations in 9 pilot municipalities is a part of the project “Protection of Children at Risk and Children in Contact with the Justice System in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” In this project UNICEF collaborates with relevant government institutions and agencies, with support from Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The overall goal of the Project is to support the Juvenile Justice System Reform and strengthen the legal and policy framework, systems and practices, in line with international standards.
The project promotes an integrated and multi-sectorial approach while strengthening referral systems and responses at the municipal level, through the identification of children at risk and children in contact with the law. In parallel, prevention activities are focused on public information and the promotion of activities to reduce violence in selected schools. Pilot locations of the project are: Bihac, Bijeljina, Brcko, Capljina, Kozarska Dubica, Mostar, Prijedor, Trebinje and Tuzla.
“Speaking about juvenile justice, some people usually first think about offenders, but we consider the wider context that includes children who are witnesses or victims of crime. The purpose of these child-friendly rooms is to create a friendly environment in which children can be interviewed; so the children will benefit the most from them”, said UNICEF Representative in BiH, Florence Bauer. She stressed that specially equipped rooms facilitate police enquiries as well. “If a child gets necessary support, and if the interview is done with trained personnel, the recorded statement is more credible and reliable. The most important fact is that statements are recorded, so the children do not have to be interviewed several times to repeat the given statement.” said Ms. Bauer.
Ambassador of Switzerland in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Andre Schaller stressed that one of the most important achievements with these rooms is to reduce children’s fear and trauma. “Imagine that you are a parent of the child being interviewed. How would you like your child to be scared and interviewed about something that happened to him or her or something that she or he has done? The police investigation is a stress itself, let alone for children. I think it is important that children are not traumatized. No child should be scared“ stressed Mr. Schaller.
Swedish Ambassador in BiH Bosse Hedberg added that his country, together with Switzerland and UNICEF invested significant efforts in support to the youngest members of the BiH society. “During the last three years - since I live here - besides the latest negative progress reports in forming the state government, I saw a significant progress in local communities, achieved mostly due to commitment of local politicians at regional, cantonal and municipal level. Tuzla is one of these good examples. I congratulate all of you on joint efforts to reach this goal – establishing the “child-friendly” rooms in police stations.
Tuzla canton Prime minister Sead Causevic and Minister of Interior in Tuzla canton Bego Gutic, as well as the Tuzla Police commissioner spoke about positive effects of the joint project “Justice for Every Child” and child-friendly room in the police. Minister Gutic reminded the public that Tuzla police has a special department for juveniles and that this child-friendly room will be of a great assistance to align with international standards in this area.
“This is a great help in strengthening the justice system in BiH, and a significant support to the Tuzla canton Ministry of Interior.”, said Gutic.
Sljivic said that police results so far show that the number of criminal acts done by juveniles, as well as juvenile offenders decreases, but also that with this support he expect even better results. “Starting today, thanks to SIDA, SDC and UNICEF, our specialized department can aim at achieving better results”, said Mr. Sljivic.
Prime minister Causevic emphasized the importance of protection and support to the youngest members of the society, which is a shared responsibility for everyone.
International practice as well as the experience from Sarajevo Canton confirms that the manner and environment in which questioning of children are conducted have enormous effect on a child, for this reason child-friendly investigation facilities are necessary so as to minimize the exposure to trauma and prevent re-traumatization of children, as well as to ensure that children give reliable and complete evidence. The training of police officers appointed as focal points for juvenile justice, or specialised police officers in line with internationally adopted standards will complement this approach. In the future, this approach should be replicated throughout the whole country, in all police stations.