Juvenile justice must take special circumstances and needs of children into accountAMMAN/BAGHDAD, 13 April 2006 – The special needs of thousands of Iraqi children who find themselves in trouble with the law and being held in juvenile institutions as well as detention centres was the focus of a workshop that concluded today. Iraqi Government representatives, UNICEF and non-governmental organizations partners working with vulnerable and marginalized groups deliberated the issue for over five days.
”Juvenile justice and protective institutions must take the particular developmental needs of Iraqi children who do not live with their families into account,” stressed Roger Wright, UNICEF’s Special Representative for Iraq. “We know that children can be taught the difference between right and wrong, and go on to lead productive lives that contribute positively to their communities and society.”
He said that improving juvenile justice was, however, only one element of a complex and interrelated scenario. “While it is critical to address how children in detention are being treated, it is also crucially important to focus on reducing the vulnerabilities and circumstances that push children to the edge and into lifestyles which often result in law-breaking and criminality,” he added.
The workshop concluded with a deeper and broader understanding that will guide approaches towards juvenile justice and institutionalization, upgrade and strengthen the existing system as well as provide more child-friendly services. Over the last five days, 20 Government representatives from orphanages, reformatories and Ministries in Baghdad and northern Iraq learned more about international standards of juvenile justice and child rights. Follow-up training will soon be provided to other personnel, including social workers involved in Iraq’s juvenile justice system. The beneficiaries of this capacity building will be children in conflict with the law, those in juvenile reformatories as well as in detention, and their families.
The juvenile justice system in Iraq has suffered from neglect and disruption caused by 25 years of crises and conflicts. Acutely aware of the shortcomings within the current system, in October 2005, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA) asked for technical support for the Juvenile Justice Department that would enable it to develop strategies, policies, programmes and initiatives. The aim was to provide quality services at international standards oriented toward securing a more protective environment for children.
According to a representative of the MoLSA, Iraq’s juvenile justice law and the rules, as well as the regulations for related institutions, will soon be modified to integrate the principles of the new Iraqi constitution, which are in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other international treaties, as well as to make them compatible with international standards on juvenile justice. While given certain circumstances, the detention of children in institutions appears unavoidable, “the pressing reality,” notes the MoLSA representative is that “families are the most important people in a child’s life.”
This is a view shared by UNICEF, which advocates reintegrating children into communities, with familiar settings and faces, rather than placing them in institutions. Nevertheless, as this may not always be possible, what is therefore sought is the creation of juvenile justice facilities that are ‘child-friendly’.
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working 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:
David Singh, Communication Officer - Media and External Relations
UNICEF Iraq Support Centre in Amman
Tel: +962 (0) 6 551 5921 / Mob: +962 (0) 79 640 0536