More reforms needed as some children still languish in custody in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, warns UNICEF
A five country assessment sheds light on important juvenile justice successes and gapsGENEVA, November 11, 2009 - Despite some progress in juvenile justice system reform, too many children are still being held in detention awaiting trial in Eastern European and Central Asian countries, a new UNICEF study warns.
UNICEF Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States Regional Director, Steven Allen, said: “Some accused young offenders are being detained for too long, in unacceptable conditions, often held with adults, while awaiting a decision in their case.”
A UNICEF assessment in 2008 revealed that more than 1,000 children were held in pre-trial detention in Ukraine, close to 2,500 in Turkey and more than 450 in Kazakhstan. While the decrease in detention of convicted children is a welcome trend across the region, it is clear that the pre-trial stage remains a black hole in justice for children.
The new UNICEF report, ‘The Development of Juvenile Justice Systems in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Lessons from Albania, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Ukraine’, finds important progress has been made in all five countries on developing aspects of juvenile justice, thereby protecting children’s rights: conditions of post-trial detention have improved; legal reform is underway in most countries; pilot alternatives to detention and specialization of some services are being developed, especially within judiciaries and police forces.
Where data is compiled, it shows that about a third of the cases are resolved through ‘diversion’, a means of avoiding court adjudication, and an estimated 20 to 30 per cent of court decisions against child offenders are now alternatives to imprisonment. Yet, the lack of data and research in juvenile justice impedes the full evaluation and development of such initiatives.
Effective measures such as mediation, probation, and attendance orders are only starting to be used by the judiciary. As for children committing offences who are too young to be prosecuted, the report shows they need fairer processes and positive, family-centered interventions. Sustainable progress will only be made when alternatives to custody, and adequate child and family support services are systematically and comprehensively made available by both government and non-governmental organisations.
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