“Justice for Children” report calls for commitment and action against rising juvenile crimes in Kosovo
PRISTINA, UN Administered Province of Kosovo, 14 July 2008 – UNICEF and partners recently launched “Justice for Children”, a report focusing on the extent of juvenile crimes in Kosovo, and the justice system’s treatment of children in conflict with the law. Together with the report, an awareness campaign was also launched to educate the general public on the rights of children particularly that of juvenile offenders.
The report reveals that juvenile crime in Kosovo is significantly higher than some countries of the western Balkans, but is relatively lower compared to western European countries. Nevertheless, the number of juveniles suspected of crimes has doubled from 2005 to 2007 according to police records. The same data source indicates that for the period of 2005-2006, the number of children suspected of crimes was 2,369, while for 2006-2007 the number rose to 4,300.
The report shows that adolescents in Kosovo do not often commit serious crimes. Serious offences make up less than 2 per cent of the total crimes committed by juveniles each year. A significant proportion of the juvenile crimes are public disorder offenses, with almost one third of them minor property offences. In Prizren and Prishtine/Pristina, unauthorized control, possession or use of a weapon has been one of the top five offenses committed by juveniles.
Justice for Children is the first report that looks at how children are treated by police and the justice system once they commit or are suspected of committing a crime. Kosovo has an advanced law on children’s rights, but in reality, protection of children has yet to be fully realized, especially for those in conflict with the law. For example, the system does not promote rehabilitation of children, despite the fact that modern provisions of the law clearly call for it.
“We have made a significant progress since the Juvenile Justice Code was promulgated in 2004. However, we have still a long way to go in order to be fully satisfied with the way we treat children in the justice system.,” commented Rexhep Haxhimusa, President of the Supreme Court and Kosovo Judicial Council.
“We are committed to commence with the reforms, and the recommendations of this report will inform our actions in the future,” continued Ms. Haxhimusa. “We will make sure that each court in Kosovo considers children’s best interest and gives them a chance to become good and responsible citizens.”
UNICEF Head of Office in Kosovo Robert Fuderich stressed that juvenile crime has become an issue in Kosovo and it deserves attention. “We need commitment and action,” said Mr. Fuderich. “It is the responsibility of parents, teachers and community as a whole to prevent children from getting into conflict with the law.
“However, when children do break the law, they have rights. Justice, police, social welfare and education officials need to work together to ensure that children get a second chance. Children should not be behind bars. They should be in school and be given every opportunity to choose their future,” added Mr. Fuderich.
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