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Fewer children behind bars, greater reforms needed

BRUSSELS/SARAJEVO, 1 July 2013 — Children in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia have seen steady and positive reforms in children’s rights but still face huge barriers in accessing justice, as discussed at the High Level Conference on Justice for Children hosted last week in Brussels by the European Commission and the UNICEF regional office.

The high-level conference brought together some 120 participants including justice ministers, ombudspersons and representatives from civil society, international organisations and the European Commission to discuss and share experiences on how to accelerate juvenile justice reforms and improve equitable access to justice for all children, within rule of law agendas.

Ms Florence Bauer, UNICEF Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ms Jasminka Dzumhur, Ombusdperson from the Institution of Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina participated together in this high-level conference.  Ms Dzumhur was one of the highly respected panellists discussing challenges and ways forward in ensuring children access to justice. Ms Dzumhur presented some of the main issues faced by children in contact with the law in Bosnia and Herzegovina and illustrated how UNICEF’s supported child friendly procedures for children in contact with the law and in particular child-friedly rooms in police stations mitigate some of those challenges. 
“I look forward to the continuation of the cooperation established between UNICEF and government institutions including Ombudsperson Institution to further improve and strengthen established programs on juvenile justice”, said Ms Dzumhur.

UNICEF in Bosnia and Herzegovina, together with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, provides support to the country to ensure the rights of children in contact with the legal system are protected, respected, and fulfilled. The Child Friendly Rooms developed as part of this joint programme with BiH institutions are setting an example for other countries in the region to follow.  

The EU and UNICEF welcomed moves by governments in the region, including in countries due to join the EU, to widen the scope of reforms towards systematically protecting the rights of all children in the justice process. Broader reforms will include ending the culture of impunity by authorities and giving access to justice for all children who are victims or witnesses to crimes. 
Legislation in many of these countries is moving closer to international standards. Importantly, changes in legislation on sentencing and other reforms have also led to a substantial decline in the number of children languishing behind bars.

“Despite some progress, there is still scope for considerable improvement when it comes to children’s rights. There is a need to overcome the institutionalisation of children and to promote less technical term in support of families. And our concerns don’t just end there. It is essential that countries in our neighbourhood not only adhere to international human rights standards, but they must also ensure the effective implementation of recently-adopted criminal justice legislation, which in some countries is very progressive” European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle said in his opening speech at the conference.

“The more children in conflict with the law are shut out of society, the harder it is for them to heal,” said Yoka Brandt, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “Progress has been made but justice is often blind to children’s needs. Justice systems must adjust to meet the rights of all children.”

For more information
Website of European Instrument for Democracy & Human Rights:

Website of the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle

Link to the report “Juvenile Justice in the CEE/CIS region: Progress, Challenges, Obstacles and Opportunities”





Manje djece iza rešetaka; reforme i dalje potrebne


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