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Youth affected by juvenile justice share their voices through videos

By Chris Schuepp
The OneMinutesJr. is a youth arts initiative that teaches young people how to capture their viewpoints on video. The project, run by UNICEF and its partner, The One Minutes Foundation, has been producing one-minute videos since 2002.

(Hayastan Makaryan, 17, Armenia, 2012) A girl withdraws a complaint - only to find herself answering charges of giving false witness.

GENEVA, Switzerland and BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, 21 September 2012 – Two years ago, Aramais, from Yerevan, Armenia, was accused of rape. He pleaded innocent. But the investigation took more than six months, during which time the pressure on the then-15-year-old boy mounted and became almost unbearable.

In the end, Aramais was cleared of all charges – but he still feels insecure and sometimes nervous and aggressive because of the psychological consequences of his ordeal.

Now 18, Aramais participated in a recent OneMinutesJr. workshop, where he produced a video, 'Under pressure', that portrays a young boy screaming under water. His video, and others like it, will take centre stage at the international conference Violence Against Children in Juvenile Justice Systems, convened in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on 21 September.

© © UNICEF/Schuepp
Aman, 14 years old, films his short movie 'Street life' at the OneMinutesJr. video workshop on juvenile justice in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He used to live on the streets of the Kyrgyz capital and is now under the supervision of local NGOs.
Children's voices captured through video

The conference is part of a project supported by the European Union in partnership with UNICEF that has offices of ombudspersons and human rights NGOs in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Moldova, Tajikistan and Ukraine carrying out research on torture and ill treatment of children in conflict with the law. Participants will discuss initial findings and how to turn the research into action.

Children's voices are a strong part of the initiative. In 2012, a series of OneMinutesJr. video workshops were held to capture these voices. Throughout the region, UNICEF and partner NGOs brought together children who had been behind bars and dealt with police, prosecutors and judges. Like the vast majority of children in detention globally, many of these children had been arrested for minor, non-violent crimes or offences, such as petty thievery or vagrancy – which many poor children commit simply to survive.

The youth participants developed story ideas for 60-second videos and then filmed and edited the videos to demonstrate their personal views on the juvenile justice systems in their countries.

Their stories are about how the children started getting into trouble, how they were treated by the police, judges and penitentiary staff, who, in many cases, have not been trained to provide services geared to children, about the lengthy legal processes to which they were subjected. Some suffered from isolation and violence while in detention. They struggle to leave their past behind.

At the conference in Bishkek, several of the children's videos will be shown, and some of the filmmakers will meet the policy-makers.

Youth tell their stories

Khurshed, 19, is from Dushanbe, Tajikistan. He spent 2 1/2 years behind bars. In his film 'Isolation,' he shares that he was kept in an isolation room for several days without proper access to water or a toilet, that he was physically and psychologically abused and that he still feels terrified when he thinks back to "the dark days".

Hayastan, 17, from Armenia, reported a male perpetrator to the police. But she succumbed to pressure from friends and family and decided to withdraw her complaint – only to find herself answering charges of giving false witness. Hayastan's film 'I am not guilty' is an outlet for her feelings about the situation.

A constructive approach to juvenile justice

UNICEF advocates for a constructive, tailored response for each child who comes into contact with the law. Depriving a child of liberty – delivering her or him into police custody or to jail – is a last resort. Reintegration into society is the ultimate aim. The work in the eight countries will include supporting legislative and policy reforms, building institutional and professional capacity and developing alternatives to deprivation of liberty.

The video messages produced by the children underline how youth are treated and want to be treated. Showing the films at the Bishkek international conference is one way of helping decision-makers look at the situation from a different point of view.

Next year, a ministerial gathering will be held in Brussels to present the final recommendations – alongside the children's videos.





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