Robert Badinter makes recommendations on Juvenile Justice Reform in Bulgaria
Sofia, 18 November 2010 – The world-famous human rights advocate and former Minister of Justice of France Robert Badinter visited Bulgaria at the invitation of UNICEF on 15–17 November 2010.
His visit aimed to support the juvenile justice reform in Bulgaria through concrete recommendations on protection of children’s rights. At a press conference held yesterday at the Ministry of Justice, Badinter extended his gratitude for the fruitful visit to the Deputy Minister of Justice Daniela Masheva and shared his impressions from the situation in our country. He referred to the huge difference between juvenile and adult offenders: “Children are not miniatures of adults, but persons in the process of development. When a personality is taking shape, the crime is a symptom – a sign that something has gone wrong. Therefore, the systems for adults and children need to be different and united around the interest of children and their chance of development.”
Badinter highlighted some of the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child addressed to Bulgaria in 2008. He described as inadmissible the fact that the Control of Juvenile Anti-Social Behaviour Act, adopted in 1958 as a product of the communist regime rejected by Bulgarians a long time ago, is still currently effective in Bulgaria. The speaker also focused on the need to redefine antisocial behaviour, determine the age for assuming criminal liability and ensure that only social protection measures will be imposed on children younger than 14 years instead of bringing them to trial based on the criminal law system. Another key recommendation was given on the need to draft a special legislative act, thereby stipulating that minors may not be held in detention in remand centres for more than eight days, and to improve the conditions for children.
The former French Minister of Justice also rendered advice on the creation of a fully independent juvenile justice system employing qualified magistrates and operating special procedures in accordance with the best interest of the child. All judges and law enforcement officers, who have contacts with children from the point of detention to the enforcement of administrative and court decisions, should be trained. The delegation pointed out that it should be guaranteed that imprisoned juveniles keep in touch with the community, their families and friends. They should be able to visit their homes and families. The reform should focus on crime prevention strategies to ensure an early-stage support for children at risk and their families.
Tanja Radocaj, UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria, referred to the role of adults and society: “Behind every child who has broken the law, there is a long list of adults who have failed. Imagine a boy from the reformatory in Boychinovtsi or a girl from the correctional boarding school in Podem and you will be able to see a number of institutions and people who have not complied with their commitment to protect, support and advise the children.”
The Deputy Minister of Justice Daniela Masheva announced that a juvenile justice concept based on the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child is to be tabled for consideration by the Council of Ministers by 15 December. Following its adoption, all interested institutions are planning to identify concrete actions for its implementation. A comprehensive review of the Control of Juvenile Anti-Social Behaviour Act, aiming at its amendment, is underway.
At the same time, an expert-level working group is drafting amendments to the Child Protection Act, thereby envisaging prevention and protection measures targeted at these children and their families. Masheva said that the specialization of magistrates and prosecutors has been already launched and assisted by UNICEF. In a long-term perspective, the creation of a specialized juvenile court is envisaged; however, in the current crisis context, it is more realistic to incorporate it into the current judicial system.
“We have also agreed on the idea that the work of the local committees for prevention of juvenile delinquency needs to be reviewed and the experts’ capacity should be effectively utilized. This system needs to be restructured to enable the experts to provide adequate help to children”, Masheva added.
About Robert Badinter
Robert Badinter is a distinguished high-profile French criminal lawyer, university professor and politician, mainly known for his struggle against death penalty and promotion of juveniles rights in France. Mr. Badinter is cooperating with UNICEF to promote juvenile justice reform and to assist the national response in protecting rights of children.