Top Legal Experts Hold Juvenile Justice Seminar
Top officials from different sectors, including judges, legal experts, police and members of the State Welfare Organization gathered in Orumiyeh this week to discuss juvenile justice in Iran. The seminar was organized by the Department of Judicial Development of the Iranian Judiciary with support from UNICEF. It is one of a series of juvenile justice events aimed at aligning Iran’s child protection and juvenile justice practices with international conventions.
“The seminar’s proceedings revealed the level of progress made in the implementation of juvenile justice standards in Iran,” said UNICEF Programme Officer, Jan Pieter Kleijburg, who gave a speech at the event. “The contributions made by Iranian experts put the importance of the dignity of the child at the centre and showed how Islamic teachings can be and should be at the forefront of child protection.”
“A cynical approach towards human rights is wrong,” said the head of the Judicial Sciences Faculty, Seyed Mohammad Mir Mohammad Sadeghi. “We, as legal experts, should view human rights in a positive way. This is what divine religions advocated for and the basis of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is human dignity, which is always emphasized by Islam.”
UNICEF brought in two leading experts to participate in the event - Justice Renate Winter from Austria, a UN appeal judge to the Sierra Leone tribunal and a leading juvenile justice specialist, and Nigel Branken, a top police trainer from South Africa. Both have been to Iran many times to take part in seminars and workshops, jointly organized by UNICEF and the Iranian Judiciary.
Speeches at the event included discussions of issues such as the necessity of juvenile courts, the importance of restorative justice over punitive justice, restoration, and the new Juvenile Justice Bill, currently before Parliament.
“If a youth commits an offence, it means some party – the parents, the community, the state – failed in the obligation to protect the rights of that youth,” said Justice Winter. “Very few youth commit offences out of choice. For all young offenders, prevention is preferred above punishment.”
Several speakers suggested that measures should be taken to improve child protection, including building the capacities of social workers.
“One judge is not enough to decide on a case of a juvenile offender,” said the head of Azerbaijan’s Justice Department, Hojjatol-eslam Akbar Feyz. “There should be a sociologist, a social worker, a child expert and a legal consultant there too.”
The seminar reflected on the question of whether it is possible to make the Iranian justice system restorative. Restoration, or ensuring the offender understands the harm caused, is the only way to create peace, said one speaker.
Others referred to the Holy Koran, which recommends forgiveness even for very serious offences. They said that forgiveness and peace are more important than exercising punishment, which often aggravates the situation.
The seminar was followed by a three-day workshop on juvenile justice, facilitated by Justice Winter, Nigel Branken and national resource persons, for practitioners from the police, the Judiciary, the State Welfare Organization and social workers.
The workshop included briefings on internationally recognized standards such as the ‘Beijing Rules’ in the administration of juvenile justice and the ‘Riyadh Guidelines’ in the prevention of juvenile delinquency.