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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2008 CEE/CIS: Regional Thematic Evaluation of juvenile justice system reform in Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Turkey.

Executive summary

Background and Methodology

This evaluation, which covers Albania, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Turkey, represents an important component of UNICEF’s response to increasing governments’ demands for access to normative guidance and high-quality policy expertise for supporting juvenile justice systems reforms tailored to country specific needs.

The evaluation was led by an external independent high-level international expert, in close collaboration with national counterparts. Field visits in country facilities and interviews with staff members and Government representatives were conducted.

The evaluation reviewed national juvenile justice systems, the appropriateness of the strategies adopted by UNICEF in each country, the efficiency and effectiveness of programme implementation, and the extent to which they have brought the respective juvenile justice systems into greater conformity with international standards.

Major findings of the evaluation

The efforts to develop juvenile justice systems made in the five countries since 1989, and especially during the last decade, have had positive results. All of these countries now have specialised juvenile courts, special sections of criminal courts, or specially trained judges designated to handle cases involving juveniles accused of an offence. All have special children’s police units, and the mandate of most of these units has expanded beyond their traditional role of prevention of offending.

The number of juvenile prisoners serving sentences has fallen, sometimes by as much as 50%. However, in most of these 5 countries, some accused juveniles are detained for unacceptably long periods while awaiting a final decision in their case; in most, conditions of detention do not comply with international standards, and, in some, a high percentage of all juveniles deprived of liberty are in pre-trial detention.

Good practices were identified. In Albania, the appointment of specialized juvenile judges and prosecutors has resulted in a positive impact on the number of juveniles given custodial sentences. In Azerbaijan, the publication of up-to-date statistics on juvenile justice by the State Statistical Committee as well as research by NGOs have provided valuable information for advocacy and the development of policy. In Kazakhstan and Ukraine, children at risk can no longer be placed in closed facilities by order of a Commission on Minors and only courts have this competence. In Ukraine, due to new legislation, first offenders convicted of minor offences cannot be given custodial sentences. In Turkey, the Children’s Police Division consolidated throughout the country is having a considerable positive impact on the way juvenile suspects and victims are treated by the police, while coherence among different actors has been improved through the establishment of a central coordination council on juvenile justice.

Governments increasingly see UNICEF as the main international partner in juvenile justice system reform. However, the evaluation highlights that UNICEF efforts have been most effective when coordinated with, or designed to, compliment those of other international actors, whether bilateral donors, international foundations (like the Open Society Institute), other UN agencies (such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights), and regional actors (such as European Union or OSCE).

Main recommendations

The evaluation recommends that priority should be given to eliminating delays in investigation and adjudication of cases involving juveniles, reducing use of pre-trial detention (especially for non-violent offenders, first offenders and those who attend school and have good ties with their family) and increasing the use of diversion in appropriate cases.

Research on juvenile offenders should be undertaken in order to identify most appropriate forms of prevention and assistance, taking into account that programmes addressing the needs of the child in the context of his or her family should be the first resort.

UNICEF should continue supporting the development of comprehensive juvenile systems, facilitating the exchange of relevant information and experiences between countries and advocating for the development of appropriate coordination mechanisms involving all concerned actors.

Evaluation use. The results of this evaluation, along with those of the Regional Thematic evaluations conducted in 2006/2007, will be used to refining an approach to juvenile justice reform adapted to needs and characteristics of this region. In this context, good practices in alternatives to detention and the role of juvenile police identified by this evaluation will be shared during sub-regional conferences organized in Albania, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

The country-level evaluation reports were finalized and officially endorsed by the governments at the beginning of 2009. Government, parliamentarians and key partners - including the European Commission – are developing action plans to follow-up the evaluation findings and recommendations, in order to strengthen and accelerate the reform of the juvenile justice system.

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