„Child-Friendly“ Room Equipped in the Prijedor Police
Prijedor 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 RS Ministry of Interior, Municipal Working Group for Juvenile Justice, representatives of UNICEF and donors, Swiss and Swedish ambassadors in BiH, and the NGO Zdravo da ste attended the ceremony held on 17.11.2011
„I would like to thank UNICEF and partners of the Project from Sweden and Switzerland for support to such a project. Our Ministry implements a number of activities related to treatment of children in contact with the justice system. The plan of preventional activities has been prepared and the goals is to protect children and their rights.“ , said Minister of Interior of Republika Srpska, Stanislav Cadjo. UNICEF Representative Florence Bauer and ambassadors of Sveden and Swiss joined the minister in cutting the symbolic ribbon to open the „child-friendly“ room.
“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. I hope that the premises in Prijedor will serve as a good example and that other municipalities across the Country.“ 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.
Professionals working directly with children showed their satisfaction with opening of „child-friendly“ premises. „We have already started using these premises that were really needed. The child feels protected, and the reaction to the environment is better, so it gains better results.“ – says Draško Papak, Head of the Crime Police in Prijedor Police Station.
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, Prijedor, Trebinje Tuzla and Zenica.
International practice 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.