The third child protection forum for Central Asia in Ashkabat, Turkmenistan (30 May - 1 June 2011)
Opportunities in juvenile justice reform
The Child Protection Forum for Central Asia is a key platform for high-level policy dialogue between countries in the region, organized approximately every two years by Governments of Central Asia in partnership with UNICEF.
At the Third Forum, held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, from 30 May to 1 June 2011, a total of 133 parliamentarians, high-level policymakers and other government officials, ambassadors and members of the international community, non-governmental organizations and international experts came together to bring greater visibility to the theme of building and reforming juvenile justice systems in Central Asia and to better understand how it affects the realization of child rights. In addition, the Forum provided crucial opportunities to encourage enhanced political commitments to such reform from high-level representatives, as well as to leverage support from partners working on broader rule of law agendas.
A particular strength of the Forum was noted in the strong participation of parliamentarians, under the leadership of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan. Yet reform within juvenile justice started only recently in the young Central Asian republics, and the time is ripe for accelerating change.
Significant challenges remain and require urgent attention: In addition to the continuing sensitivity of the issue, none of the five countries has a fully specialized juvenile justice system. In many cases, children in conflict with the law are being treated as adults. In reviewing the situation in the region, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed particular concern over issues such as deprivation of liberty not being used as a “last resort;” children being detained together with adults; long periods of detention, especially during the pre-trial phase; and ill treatment during interrogation. Alternative programmes – prior to adjudication, as a diversion measure, and as a sentence – and community-based rehabilitation programmes require funding, expansion, strengthening and systematic promotion and implementation. Inter-sectoral coordination among various Government institutions working in juvenile justice is underutilized, as is deployment of social workers and specialized independent monitoring mechanisms. Frequent turnover of trained staff exacerbates child protection issues.
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Examples of practice