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Press release

The rights of young Iraqis in conflict with the law “must be respected”

Landmark workshop charts new directions in juvenile justice in Iraq

AMMAN, JORDAN, 28 September 2004: Senior members of the Iraq government reaffirmed Tuesday that young Iraqis who come into conflict with the law must have their rights respected in accordance with international standards and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“This workshop marks a crucial step forward,”  said UNCIEF Representative, Roger Wright.   “When young people receive just treatment under the law they are more likely to respect the law.  Injustice often creates a breeding ground for resentment that can lead to further law-breaking and aggression.”  He reaffirmed UNICEF’s commitment to assisting the Iraqi authorities, communities and families to ensure the rights of all children and young people are respected. 

H.E. Dr. Bakhtiar Ameen, Minister for Human Rights, led several high-level delegations who were taking part in the 3-day workshop supported by UNICEF that has resulted in a plan of action for improving juvenile justice in Iraq.

Other high-level officials participating in the workshop included Dr. Noori Jafar Al-Lateef, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Dr. Aiden Kh Khader, Deputy Minister of Interior, Dr Ghazi Ebraheem Al-Janabi, from the Ministry of Justice, Mr. Kamal H. Alou, who is Head of the Iraq Bar Association, and Ms. Safiaya Al Suhail who was representing the Minister of Women's Affairs.

H.E. Dr. Bakhtiar Ameen said, “We have pledged our commitment to ensure that young Iraqis that come into conflict with the law will have their rights respected.”   He went on to outline key rights for such juveniles, including the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the right to remain silent, the right to legal assistance and counsel, to have a parent or guardian present, for juveniles to only be denied freedom as a last resort and for the shortest possible time, and to be kept separately from adults.

The almost 40 participants attending the workshop also outlined the difficulties and risks faced by juveniles in the current highly insecure environment in Iraq. 

Statement by Participants in the 3-Day Workshop on Juvenile Justice in Iraq

The participants:

  • Reaffirm the Convention on the Rights of the Child which has been ratified by the Republic of Iraq and is therefore an integral part of the Iraq Legislation, and to work towards ensuring the best interests of juveniles in all measures and procedures.
  • To continue to work towards the application of international standards related to juvenile justice in order to ensure adequate protection for Iraqi juveniles, especially with regard to standards covered by :
    - The United Nations Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (the Beijing Rules),
    - The United Nations Rules for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (the Riyadh Guidelines) and
    - The United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty (the Havana Rules)
  • To uphold the rights of Iraqi juveniles in conflict with the law, with particular regard to the following:
    - Separation from adults
    - Presumption of innocence until proven guilty
    - Right to remain silent
    - Right to legal assistance and counsel
    - Right to the presence of a parent or guardian
    - Right to confront and cross examine witnesses
    - Right to appeal to a higher authority at all stages of proceedings
    - Protection of privacy of juveniles with their records kept strictly confidential and closed to third parties
    - Protection against torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
    - Use denial of freedom as a last resort and for the shortest possible period of time
    - Enhance social inquiry reports and make them indispensable for juveniles’ legal proceedings
    - Ensure that capital punishment is not imposed on any juveniles, nor life imprisonment
    - Ensure that each case is from the outset handled expeditiously, without unnecessary delay
    - Ensure that female juveniles receive special attention as to their personal needs. Their fair treatment shall be   ensured.
    - Ensure the right to free assistance of an interpreter if the child cannot understand or speak the language  used.
  • Juveniles in institutions shall also receive care, protection and all necessary assistance – social, educational, vocational, psychological, medical and physical – that they may require because of their age, sex and personality and in the interest of their wholesome development.
  • All Iraqi Juveniles should benefit from the above-mentioned protection at all times and should be covered by a consistent, independent and specialized juvenile justice system, according to the general principles and provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has become an integral part of the Iraqi legislation after ratification, and the provision of the Iraqi Juvenile Care Law of 1983.

For more information please contact:

Sara Cameron, UNICEF Iraq, + 079 650 5006, scameron@unicef.org




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