Justice for children

UNICEF promotes strengthening all parts of the child protection system, including the fair delivery of justice to children through child-friendly procedures.

Justice for Children
UNICEF/Zrno

Challenge

Justice for children is a term that refers to all of the ways children encounter the justice system, whether as victims, witnesses, alleged offenders, or in cases involving their care, custody or protection. Every day, children in Bosnia and Herzegovina face deprivation and challenges to realizing their rights and yet few come forward and seek redress. Even fewer obtain an effective remedy. The comprehensive rights guaranteed to children under the Convention on the Rights of the Child lack substance unless countries have frameworks in place to ensure that children are aware of their rights, remedies are available and children can seek protection or redress for an entire range of rights violations that they might experience.

To date, reform efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina have focused on justice responses to juvenile offenders. Much less attention has been brought to how the justice system supports those children whose rights have been violated as victims of crime, part of family law related proceedings, or through contact with the justice system for any other reason.

Data on child victims of crimes is not comprehensively maintained or readily available, however data provided by the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council on cases involving at least one child victim suggests that hundreds of child victims are involved in the criminal justice process each year, and that the number of reported crimes involving child victims in Bosnia and Herzegovina is increasing. It is difficult to draw conclusions about criminal offending against children without more comprehensive data disaggregated by type of offence, and gender and age of the victim. Data collection systems should be coordinated between the child protection system and criminal justice system where possible.

 

Solution

There are now many standards that promote and require the fair delivery of justice to children. Justice systems should have child-sensitive procedures that promote the child’s development, rehabilitation and re-integration into society.

UNICEF supports the training of police, prosecutors, judges, lawyers, social services and health professionals to effectively protect children in contact with the justice system. UNICEF encourages the establishment of child sensitive judicial and investigative procedures that give primary consideration to a child’s right to protection and are consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other non-binding international standards, guidelines and rules. UNICEF promotes alternatives to the use of detention, such as diversion, as well as restorative justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior.

UNICEF Bosnia and Herzegovina created the ‘Justice for Children’ programme to support Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities' efforts to enhance access to legal protection and social services for children at-risk, juveniles, child victims/witnesses and children in civil proceedings. These services aim to protect children’s rights, promote prevention and reduce offending.

In 2015 alone, UNICEF:

  • Developed the capacity of 1,400 justice for children professionals to implement new legislation, to identify children at risk of offending, and to treat all children in the justice system in a way which complies with international standards and is in the child’s best interest.
  • Contributed to an increase of 57 percent in the use of diversion (compared to 2012), through the implementation of local action plans, capacity building, peer-to-peer meetings and awareness raising campaigns.
  • Developed five training manuals and visual aids to support training programmes used by judges, prosecutors, social workers, police, lawyers and legal associates.
  • Issued four guidelines on how to successfully implement measures for juveniles, targeting school officials, health authorities, social protection officials, prosecutors, police and judges.

Juvenile off­ences in Bosnia and Herzegovina have fallen by approximately 10 percent overall since 2010. The decline has been larger in Tuzla and Zenica, where the UNICEF-supported ‘Justice for Children’ programme was implemented (16 percent and 30 percent respectively).

Building on previous achievements in juvenile justice, UNICEF aims to continue strengthening children’s access to justice. This will, in turn, contribute to an increase in (a) the number of prosecutors’ offices and municipal courts applying child-friendly procedures and (b) the percentage of children in conflict with the law benefi­ting from diversion and alternative measures.

Resources

Mel Flanagan: We are all responsible

Elmedin Muratbegović: Sanctions and children?

Sanja Radetić Lovrić: Children in conflict with the law

Olga Ninković: Children as victims