Montenegro achieves better integration of juveniles in conflict with the law
PODGORICA, 3 JULY 2014 - Results and recommendations for future actions within the juvenile justice reform in Montenegro were presented at the "Justice for Children“ conference, held in Podgorica on Thursday.
UNICEF Representative in Montenegro, Benjamin Perks said that through the "Justice for Children" reform initiative the Government of Montenegro has brought the juvenile justice system closer to international standards.
"We wish to salute the commitment of the Government of Montenegro to securing and enforcing human rights of the children who come in contact with the law, as victims, witnesses, perpetrators, suspects, and legally established offenders as well. We would also like to salute the commitment of the European Union, for we truly believe that its leadership in this area has made a good example of how justice for children can be a litmus test for broader judicial system reform in the country", Perks said at the conference.
The key segment of the juvenile justice system reform is systemic application of a different approach to juveniles in conflict with the law, focused on the application of alternative measures.
Director General of the Directorate of Justice in the Ministry of Justice, Branka Lakocevic, said that after 18 months of implementing the "Justice for Children" reform initiative, it can be said that all planned project activities have been successfully implemented, with excellent results.
"The results we obtained indicate that Montenegrin judicial system is, indeed, child-friendly. It is accessible, age appropriate, quick, and diligent, adapted to and revolving around the needs and rights of the children", Lakocevic stated.
As a result of the greater application of alternative measures instead of the court proceedings, the percentage of reported juveniles processed in courts decreased by more than 20% in one year. At the same time, the percentage of juveniles in conflict with the law who were diverted from the court proceedings to alternative measures increased by nearly 25 percent from 2010 to 2013.
Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Goran Kusevija, pointed out that the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs data shows that the number of minors in need of undergoing a program of rehabilitation and reintegration is continuously increasing, while the number of children placed in the "Ljubovic" center is decreasing.
"Special emphasis should be placed on the prevention of unacceptable behaviour of children, which includes the development of a network of institutions and organizations at the local level and involvement of all segments of society in these activities", Kusevija added.
Panellists during the closing conference of the “Justice for Children” reform initiative - UNICEF Montenegro/Dusko Miljanic/2014
Through the reform initiative "Justice for Children", implemented by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, with UNICEF's technical support and financial support from the EU Delegation in Montenegro, capacities of juvenile justice professionals were strengthened and the conditions were improved for ensuring proper treatment of children victims and witnesses of crime by judicial authorities. In particular, nine prosecutors’ offices and five courts in Montenegro have been provided with the latest equipment for the hearing of the children victims and witnesses, in accordance with the relevant international standards.
"When children are involved with justice systems that are not child-friendly, they can be subjected to many further restrictions or even violations of their rights. The project that we close today was specifically designed to help Montenegro establish a comprehensive legal framework for juvenile justice, in line with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, but also with the Convention on the Rights of the Child", the Head of Operations of the EU Delegation to Montenegro, André Lys said.
The success of the ongoing juvenile justice system reform, to which the "Justice for Children" initiative contributed, is confirmed by the statistics indicating a decrease in juvenile delinquency in Montenegro.
UNICEF Representative in Montenegro, Benjamin Perks concluded that Montenegro has achieved extraordinary results within the juvenile justice system reform.
"As I said, we will continue to cooperate with the intention to secure ubiquitous respect for children’s rights, and we will do everything to prevent children from getting involved in crime", Perks added.
UNICEF and the Government of Montenegro will continue working together on the reform of the judiciary system in order to strengthen capacities and provide better support to young people to prevent them from breaking the law, as well as to provide better rehabilitation of juveniles in conflict with law so that they grow up into responsible and productive citizens.