"JUSTICE FOR EVERY CHILD" IN BIH DURING THE PAST DECADE
How UNICEF, Sweden and Switzerland improved the justice system for children
The overall goal of the Justice for Every Child program was to support necessary changes in legislation, strengthen the work of officials and decision-makers, optimize procedures, and improve the quality of services to make decisions in the best interests of children, in line with international standards of child justice.
In the past period, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made progress in protecting children's rights, primarily in terms of harmonizing the legislative framework with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopting strategic documents and action plans for better protection of children, and establishing a state-level coordination body to implement the Convention. The government's awareness of children at risk and children in contact with the law has been raised, the legislative and strategic framework for children has been strengthened, service provision has been improved and children's access to justice accordingly, and strong multi-sectoral coordination has been established.
Across the country, the program Justice for children has contributed to better evidence of the Law on the Protection and Treatment of Juveniles in Criminal Proceedings, improved the use of diversion and alternative measures for children in conflict with the law, and improved support services for children in the justice system.
Hundreds of professionals working in the children's justice system have acquired knowledge and skills regarding new laws, principles of children's justice, practical application, as well as identifying and working with 'at risk' children
After the successful completion of the Justice for Every Child Program, 63 percent of municipalities and cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have conditions for implementing key diversion measures for children in conflict with the law, such as community work. As many as 67 percent of prosecutors in Bosnia and Herzegovina use these measures instead of the formal ones. The number of convicted children between 2011 and 2020, decreased by 71 percent, and the number of children in conflict with the law decreased by 45 percent compared to 2014.
When it comes to supporting the children who are victims and witnesses, it was pointed out that the engagement of experts in the police, courts and prosecutor's offices has increased, to support children in proceedings, and as an example it was stated that in 2013 only two experts were engaged in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Whilst today there are 24 experts which are financed from local budgets.
The importance of the Secondary Prevention Program in schools, which includes training teachers to identify children at risk of becoming a victim or perpetrator of crime and referring them to support services was also emphasized. About 150,000 children a year benefit from this program, and about 7,000 receive direct support.
Today we have child-friendly justice services in 28 institutions such as courts, prosecutors' offices, and police stations. An example of this is the special examination rooms which have been set up and are specially adapted for children. We can say that children in Bosnia and Herzegovina are much better protected within the justice, security, and social protection sector in comparison with the period when we started the project more than ten years ago. This program has played an instrumental role in bringing the country's laws and policies closer to international and regional standards and creating better conditions for children in conflict with the law.
The program has supported authorities and judicial systems at all levels, as well as civil society, to improve access to legal protection and social services for children, as well as to the application of international standards in terms of achieving justice for every child.
The authorities should now continue the activities, to verify the recommendations of international committees to achieve a complete reform of the child protection system in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially for children in conflict with the law, including the introduction of a restorative approach.