Interview with Justice Renate Winter, June 2006
1.What are the main problems facing the implementation of juvenile justice in Iran?
The main problems facing the implementation of juvenile justice in Iran are the lack of legal provisions for diversion and alternatives to punishment, the lack of the possibility to use mediation in penal justice and the reluctance of many judges to try new techniques because there is no explicit mention of it in the law.
2. What improvements have you seen since the first time you came here and what can still be done to ensure Iran meets international standards?
I have taken part in numerous seminars here in Iran where members of the Judiciary have teamed up with international colleagues and discussed international standards in juvenile justice. Many programmes have been introduced and successfully carried out. What’s important is that most people here are interested in educating and rehabilitating children and are against handing out harsh punishments.
3. Some observers talk about a contradiction between sharia law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the impossibility of changing Islamic code. What do you say to that?
There are only a few differences between sharia law and the CRC and not that many in the penal code. Sharia laws are to be interpreted in the light of Islam’s holy book, the Koran and the Koran emphasizes on education, mildness and understanding towards children and indicates that punishment should be the last resort.
4. What kind of training is offered at these workshops and do you see any positive results?
There are two types of training involved: A specialized one for each profession concerned (social workers, police,judges) and a multi professional one for discussing issues of necessary collaboration and best practice. Both are as important as each other and have been very successful. Many collaborative projects have been created as a result of the workshops, because that was where many of the participants had met for the first time.
5. What kind of reaction do you get from the participants?
I have always had a very positive reaction here in Iran. This has been illustrated in their interest in and requests for further workshops. Even information on institutionalized training has been asked for.
6. What country in the world has the best laws on juvenile justice and why?
It is impossible to say which country in the world has the best laws on juvenile justice. The question is rather to what extent these laws are implemented?
7. What is your opinion on Iran's laws governing crimes committed against children, especially by fathers and also the laws on crimes committed by juveniles and their subsequent punishment?
As far as I am familiar with the Iranian Penal Code, there are dispositions available to the judge to punish a father if he has committed a crime against his child. It is of course another matter if the law is applied. Regarding the juvenile justice law – currently a new bill is before parliament. Everyone I have spoken to including from almost every profession that deals with children in conflict with the law is impatiently waiting for the bill to be passed. They would then be able to hand out alternatives to sentencing and diversion methods.
8. In your experience at the International Criminal Court in Sierra Leone and Kosovo, to what extent were women and children the victims of crime, and to what extent did the local communities accept this fact and was the court able to offer justice to them?
In both countries, the situation was one of post conflict where huge numbers of women and children were victims of war crimes. The local communities reacted differently according to their own cultures but in all cases the women and children suffered extreme hardship.
Justice was not always awarded to them because of the cultural circumstances. If they had been raped, they might not have wanted the truth to be told because they were afraid of the reaction of their family or community.
In Africa, many women were satisfied just to have the identity of their attacker known especially if he was HIV positive, because it would mean he wouldn’t be able to do it again.
9. What have you learned from your experiences in those countries? Has it in anyway changed your opinions or beliefs?
I have learned that no lasting peace is possible without justice. I have also learned that no peace, reconciliation nor economic development can take place without resolving the issue of women. The quicker justice is delivered with reconciliation the better because the longer it takes to resolve problems, the more difficult the problem becomes.
10. What are the lessons that can be used for the prevention of such atrocities in the future?
Education, education, education and real and legal equality between men and women.