The number of juveniles in preventive detention isolation wards is down 50 per cent in the last six months
|Children in the penitentiary for juveniles in Lipcani, Moldova|
This is largely due to amendments to the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code adopted by Parliament in August 2006.
“The accomplishments of the joint efforts of national authorities, NGOs specializing in criminal law reform and UNICEF are a good example to follow. Our legislation and the treatment of children in the criminal justice system are closer to the requirements of the European Union, and professionals now try to have a more humane attitude towards children,” said Raisa Botezatu, Vice Chairman of the Supreme Court of Justice.
The amendments to legislation affecting children in conflict with the law have already yielded results. The maximum term of detention for children under 18 was reduced from 15 years to 12.5 years and the length of time that they can be held before being formally charged with a crime has been reduced from 72 hours to 24 hours. Furthermore, criminal investigations of children are now the responsibility of the Prosecutor’s Office and not the police. Additionally, children already in detention are allowed a review of the case files that sent them to prison.
According to UNICEF Representative in Moldova, Ray Virgilio Torres, “It is obvious that the amendments were in the interests of children. These are initiatives that need to be continued whenever possible, especially alternatives to detention and the provision of specialized rehabilitation services for children who make mistakes. Children belong in school, not in prison.”
A 2004 study on the “Situation of Children in Places of Detention”, published by UNICEF and the Institute of Penal Reform, revealed that the right to legal defence was most often violated in case of children in conflict with the law:
Since August 2006 when the new amendments came into force, 600 children have been charged with crimes. Of these, 380 cases went to court and 130 were dismissed at the criminal investigation stage. In the majority of the court cases, alternatives to detention were recommended.
“Under conditions when most of the crimes committed by children are of an economic nature and are first offences, investigating their cases as quickly as possible and applying alternatives to detention are basic requirements,” said Eugen Rusu, Head of the Department for Minors and Protection of Human Rights at the General Prosecutor’s Office.
Extended detention of juveniles has severe consequences on their long-term development. The promotion of alternatives to detention is a priority for the justice system in Moldova, so that imprisonment of children becomes an exceptional measure. In cases where detention cannot be avoided, it should be for the shortest possible period of time.
UNICEF is on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For further information, please contact:
Violeta Cojocaru, Communication Officer, UNICEF Moldova: Tel + 373 22 220034; Email: email@example.com
Radu Danii, Assistant Project Officer, Juvenile Justice, UNICEF Moldova: Tel + 373 22 220034; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org