Children face the same obstacles in accessing justice and support as all the other citizens, but in addition, they are confronted with specific legal and social barriers due to their particular status as minors.
The justice system in Bulgaria is not yet adapted to the rights and special needs of children for support and protection. Complex and lengthy procedures, complicated and vague legal terminology, lack of coordination and cooperation between child protection bodies, the police, prosecutors’ offices and courts, limited access to specialized legal aid as well as insufficient number of professionals trained to work with children are just few of the challenges for children in Bulgaria when they participate in civil, criminal and administrative proceedings.
A Justice system which is not sensitive to the rights and needs of children can discourage them to seek protection for their fundamental human rights and generate further harm rather than guarantee justice and redress.
Children participants in legal proceedings as victims and witnesses of violence and crime, investigated or accused as offenders, or parties to administrative or civil procedures all need to have access to adapted and child-sensitive procedures implemented by specifically trained professionals.
Children in Bulgaria need to have better access to quality specialized legal aid as this is crucial to guarantee equitable access to justice
One of the most important prerequisites to ensure that children are better served and protected by the justice system is the access to free quality legal aid. Both preliminary consultation and consequent legal representation are instrumental in guaranteeing positive results for children in all proceedings concerning their life and wellbeing.
In cases of systematic child rights violations, strategic litigation is one of the ways to influence systematic changes in a timely and efficient manner.
The National Ombudsman and the Commission for Protection Against Discrimination as an Independent Human Rights Institutions play an important role in ensuring children’s access to justice
The National Ombudsman in its capacity as a National Preventive Mechanism monitors not only the correctional-educational facilities and the juvenile prison where children are deprived of liberty, but also all alternative care facilities, healthcare facilities and facilities for refugee and migrant children. The reports, observations and recommendations are instrumental in stopping child rights violations and ensuring legal remedies.
The Commission for Protection against Discrimination is another opportunity for children to seek redress for discrimination of any kind.