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Hagar and UNICEF launch A Guide to Supporting Child Victims and Witnesses in Cambodia’s Justice System

© UNICEF Cambodia/Bunly Meas

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA, August 16, 2016- A comprehensive step-by step guide for lawyers, child advocates and guardians supporting child victims and witnesses in Cambodia’s criminal justice system, developed by Hagar and UNICEF and the first of its kind in Cambodia, was unveiled today to members of the Government and NGO partners.

The complete guide includes tools to implement a court preparation programme, which is widely regarded as crucial in minimising the trauma often experienced by children going to court. The training materials will also provide tools to help children and their care-givers understand the court process through checklists and steps to protect the child in court.

Micaela Cronin, Hagar International CEO stated “Hagar is very proud to launch this ground breaking tool kit for professionals. Sadly, each year we see many more children going through court processes that are unfamiliar and frightening to them. We are confident that it will contribute to a more child friendly justice system and prevent children from being further traumatised during the legal process.”

Mike Nowlin, Hagar International (Cambodia) Executive Director stated, “We are privileged to launch a training curriculum as a follow-up to recommendations resulting from ground breaking research published in 2015 on the experiences of child victims in the Cambodian Criminal Justice System. We anticipate the curriculum and toolkit for legal professionals and social workers will have a significant impact to empower victims, their families, and professionals serving them to better ensure an emotionally safe, more positive legal process for children.”

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Cambodia is a State Party, is a key instrument that continually guides efforts to develop and improve child justice system in Cambodia. The Convention clearly states that the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children undertaken by courts of law or legislative bodies.

Ms. Debora Comini, UNICEF Representative to Cambodia said: “Our goal is to ensure that justice courts are friendly and safe places for children who are survivors or witnesses of violence and crime, with clear processes and specialized legal actors to uphold the best interests of the child. Through the implementation of this new guide, children will receive adequate support while going through the legal processes, which is a major step forward for the rights of children in contact with the justice system.”

In January 2015, in conjunction with UNICEF, Hagar published a pioneering report which showed that the majority of child victims attested to feeling fearful at various stages of the justice process. The report documented that often child-friendly accommodations in court were not being adopted, children were being inadequately prepared for court and were not debriefed after trial, and they were often left re-traumatised in their pursuit of justice.

"Child victims and witnesses are often the most vulnerable group in any justice system. Unfortunately in Cambodia, as we found in UNICEF and Hagar's recent study on the experiences of child victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system, such children are often left unsupported and re-traumatized by the legal process. With this guide, we are providing professionals who support child victims and witnesses with the tools to create a process which protects their rights and treats them with dignity." Says Ms Deborah Papworth, Support for Children in Legal Processes Project Co-ordinator

The anticipated outcome from this guide is to see a significant step towards improving the experience of child victims and witnesses in the justice process and creating a child-friendly justice system in Cambodia. Hagar is launching a series of training and dialogue sessions to lawyers and child advocates on the use of the Guide.

Notes to the editor

Key Resources

1. Tools for Working with Traumatised Children
Child victims and witnesses often carry significant trauma which can impact their ability to engage with the justice process. It is critical that lawyers and child-advocates are provided with more training on the impact of trauma, and adopt trauma-informed practices in dealing with child victims and witnesses. The guide includes a set of tools on working with traumatised child clients, including how to interview traumatised children.

2. A Curriculum for a Court Preparation Programme

The court environment can be extremely frightening for children. They often struggle to understand the court process and cope with the stress of giving evidence. A well-planned and thorough court preparation programme is critical to minimising the distress which can a child can feel in participating in the court process, and can help to transform the court experience into a step in the child’s recovery. The Guide includes a set of tools and checklists for lawyers and child advocates for creating a Court Preparation Programme.

3. Tools to help children and their care-givers understand the court process

To assist lawyers and child advocates better prepare child victims and witnesses for court, easy-to-use, practical tools have been designed to explain to both children and their care-givers what happens in court. These include a short child’s animation which explains the court process, as well as accompanying booklets specially designed for children and care-givers.

4. Checklists of Steps to Protect the Child in Court
The earlier research study found that child-friendly accommodations were not being consistently adopted in courts, and this often resulted in children feeling fearful and vulnerable. The guide includes a set of checklists for lawyers and non-lawyers on steps which may be taken to ensure that children are protected in each stage of the justice process to the full extent of the law.

The guide, titled “A Guide to Supporting Child Victims and Witnesses in Cambodia’s Justice System”, is available on the Hagar website: https://hagarinternational.org/international/

_____________________________________________

For more information, contact:

Deborah Papworth, Support for Children in Legal Processes Project Coordinator, +855 092 220215, deborah.papworth@hagarinternational.org

Bunly Meas, Communication Specialist, +855 12 733 909, bmeas@unicef.org

Or visit:

Hagar:
Web: www.hagarinternational.org | Facebook: facebook.com/hagarinternational
Twitter: @hagarintl | Youtube: www.youtube.com/hagarinternational

UNICEF:
Web: www.unicef.org/cambodia | Facebook: facebook.com/unicefcambodia
Twitter: @UNICEFCambodia | Instagram: @unicefcambodia

 Download the Press Release in English or Khmer 

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA, August 16, 2016- A comprehensive step-by step guide for lawyers, child advocates and guardians supporting child victims and witnesses in Cambodia’s criminal justice system, developed by Hagar and UNICEF and the first of its kind in
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