|© UNICEF Afghanistan/2010/Walther|
|UNICEF Child Protection Officer Sami Hashemi presents a letter of agreement on juvenile justice to panellists at a three-day workshop in Kabul, Afghanistan.|
By Cornelia Walther
KABUL, Afghanistan, 15 April 2010 — The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Afghanistan, states that putting a child in detention should be a last resort.
Yet independent assessments carried out by UNICEF, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and other partners suggest that this principle is seldom applied.
As of December 2009, 529 children, including 73 girls, were reportedly being detained in 27 Juvenile Rehabilitation Centres in Afghanistan.
Young people in detention
“Too many people grow up, forgetting what it is like to be 12 years old,” said Italy's Ambassador in Afghanistan, Claudio Glaentzer, at the launch of a three-day workshop on alternatives to detention for juvenile offenders and prevention of youth crime.
Participants in the workshop included representatives from Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad and Mazar, the four areas of Afghanistan with the highest number of juveniles in detention. Judges, prosecutors, police officers and social workers were on hand as well.
Issues impeding the basic rights of children in conflict with the law are manifold – from procedural bottlenecks to untrained police and justice agents, and lack of financial and technical capacities. Children in conflict with the law frequently have their basic rights denied.
Detention as a last resort
After three days of intensive discussions, the workshop ended with the signing of a letter of agreement that detention of children is used as a last resort. The agreement also states that those working in the criminal justice system will find solutions that respect children’s rights and interests, and promote their rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.
The letter of agreement was signed by six major governmental institutions.
“Our aim during the coming months must be to transform today’s commitment into Afghan reality,” said UNICEF Child Protection Officer Sami Hashemi. “In the best interests of the child, all actors involved in the case of a child in conflict with the law must be mobilized, with the child’s family at the very core.”