On behalf of UNICEF, it is my privilege and great pleasure to welcome you to this first national seminar on “Police and Justice for Children” in Iran.
First of all, I would like to thank the Law Enforcement Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran for organizing this important event. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to all experts who have contributed to this event, including members of the scientific and executive committees of the seminar and those who have submitted papers to the seminar secretariat.
Distinguished guests, the topic of today’s seminar is Justice for children and the role of the Police. I know it is evident to all of you, as it is to UNICEF, how closely the two are related. Justice for children is among other things about protection of the vulnerable, acting in the best interest of the child, and safeguarding their right to survival, live and development. Wherever and whenever these principles of justice are under threat or being breached, the police often has a critical duty to fulfill to help restore these principles. Secondly, the police also plays a crucial role in juvenile justice, being the primary gatekeepers of the formal justice process.
Using diversion mechanisms, the police can prevent a considerable number of juvenile cases from entering the formal court system. The Juvenile Diversion Program was established to provide first-time non-violent juvenile offenders with early intervention services and an option other than the official court system and a permanent record.
As per its Mission Statement, UNICEF is mandated to “advocate for the protection of children's rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.” On this mission, and working in close collaboration with national counterparts, UNICEF is guided by the provisions and principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) adopted by the UN General Assembly in 20 November 1989 and subsequently ratified by all but two countries in the world. It is important to note that Islamic countries, including Iran, have been actively involved in the 10-year process of negotiations for developing the CRC provisions.
The CRC provides a fundamental framework for creating a protective environment for children and has set some basic standards for professionals dealing with the children in conflict with the law, including the police. It states: “The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child must be performed only as a measure of last result and for the shortest appropriate period of time”. The fundamental principles that underpin this right are universally shared, namely the ideals and objectives of Fostering dignity and self worth, Reinforcing respect for fundamental freedom of others, Taking age into account; and the Promotion of a child’s re-integration into the community and for him or her to play a meaningful role in society. I believe as such, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its implementation, both in law and in practice, remains as paramount to achieving more peaceful, equitable and just societies as ever before.
The way children are treated by national justice systems is integral to the achievement of rule of law and its related aims. This recognition translated in the 1980s and 1990s into increased attention to the treatment of children as alleged offenders, and the development of international norms and standards for juvenile justice. The below are the key juvenile justice instruments which provide minimum standards for dealing with children in conflict with the law:
Combined, they cover the entire spectrum, from the moment of initial contact with the judicial system, up to the reintegration of the child within his or her family and community. A child-friendly justice system requires appropriate child protection laws, a juvenile justice information system, prevention strategy and plan of action, aftercare services and, last but not least, well-trained and committed human resources, in particular police, judges, and social workers. The dominant approach of a child-friendly justice system is to keep the children out of court to the extent possible.
From UNICEF’s perspective, it is clear that Iran has taken a number of important steps towards creating a juvenile justice system in recent years.
The implementation of a juvenile justice training program for police, judges and social workers, the first phase of which has recently been concluded, as well as the development of a new Juvenile Justice Bill and a new Child Protection Code are examples of these positive efforts.
UNICEF’s cooperation with the police is focusing on implementation of a capacity building programme on juvenile justice and best practices for police officers throughout the country. Over 1400 police officers in 30 provinces of the country have received juvenile justice training from national trainers so far. Police experts are working on a textbook for a 90-hour course on role of police in child protection. This course will be a part of training curriculum of police academies which will institutionalize juvenile justice training within the police system.
Recently, in a regional child protection meeting, Iran’s juvenile justice training programme, designed and implemented jointly by the Judiciary, the Police and UNICEF, was cited as an example of good practice in strengthening of child protection systems through capacity building.
In addition other countries in MENA region have expressed interest in this training programme. For example, a Syrian delegation visited the training programme in 2008. Requests have also been received from other countries such as Oman.
Many officials and experts from the Judiciary and Police have actively contributed to these efforts, but please allow me here to mention a few in particular: Dr. Jamshidi, Deputy for Legal Affairs and Judicial Development, Dr. Gholam Reza Mahdavi, Director General of International Affairs of the Judiciary, General Ahmadi Moghaddam, Chief-Commander of the Police, General Assar, Deputy for Education of NAJA, General Mohammadifard, Deputy for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of NAJA, Colonel Abolghasem Raeisi DG of Higher Education of NAJA, Colonel Mohammad Reza Bagheri from International Affairs of NAJA, Colonel Mohammad Barani, Major Seyed Saeed Kashfi and Mr. Seyed Ali Kazemi national juvenile justice trainers, judge Ahmad Mozaffari and Mr. Mansour Moghare Abed. I would like to highly appreciate here in public your efforts for the protection of children in Iran.
In this context, I was also much encouraged recently when I read the announcement made by the commander of the law enforcement forces of Tehran about the government’s decision to establish, as a pilot project, a juvenile police unit in five police stations in Tehran municipality within the first half of the current Iranian year. This is an excellent new initiative and an important development in the area of child protection in Iran. Let me pledge, therefore, here and now, that if called upon, UNICEF stands ready to support this, and any similar initiatives, in any way possible.
Distinguished guests, let me conclude by expressing my sincere hope that this seminar will provide a fruitful opportunity for an open exchange of your knowledge and experiences on juvenile justice standards and best practices, and in particular the role of police in these important processes.
Let me thank you once again for your participation and contribution to this seminar, and allow me to remind us what it is we seek to accomplish in the end – to learn from our shared experiences, and apply new and better practices in our daily work to the greater benefit of the children and the country of Iran.
Tehran, 4 August 2009