UNICEF launches new reports on Justice for Children
GENEVA/BRUSSELS, June 2010 - UNICEF and UNODC are organising two events gathering high-level government officials and professionals from South East European countries and European Union East European Neighbourhood Countries together with European Commission and UN staff in order to enhance cooperation in juvenile justice reform. These events come as UNICEF launches several new reports on Justice for Children.
The first event organized from 21 to 23 June in Brussels is a Training Workshop on Establishing Juvenile Justice Information Systems and the second is a Round-Table Discussion with European Commission counterparts to address system reform gaps and improve responses to children in conflict with the law.
Juvenile justice reforms have been on going for about 10 years in CEECIS, however, many challenges remain. Rates of juvenile offending have stabilised or largely decreased since the initial shock of transition from centrally planned to market economy, but the recent crisis may push more children into offending behaviour, and so social protection of poorest families and positive youth policies should be the priority of governments. The numbers of convicted children sent to penitentiary colonies or facilities have also generally decreased - which is positive news - but alternative community-based sentences are still too few, or do not provide sufficient support and follow-up to children and young people despite new legislation to promote them. There are good pilot projects but they need to be scaled up urgently.
Children below the minimum age for prosecution as juveniles, are still being sent by administrative bodies to closed educational institutions, sometimes as young as eight years of age. UNICEF welcomes the move in some countries that judges must now approve such placements. UNICEF insists on the need for open community-based prevention and rehabilitation programmes for child offenders.
A very positive trend is that more and more countries are building separate juvenile justice systems, or at least establishing specialised juvenile justice professionals. But the first contact of a young offender with the system is usually with mainstream police officers who are not specialised and police violence remains a very serious concern.
Despite reforms, length and conditions in pre-trial detention remain sub-standard in most countries and sometimes in violation of international instruments – for example when children are detained with adults or when solitary confinement of children is still legal and used. So, mechanisms for more diversion and much stricter monitoring and accountability must be urgently strengthened.
The development of juvenile justice systems in Eastern European neighbourhood policy countries