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Child victims of violence rarely have access to justice, UNICEF says

BRUSSELS, 3 June 2015 — Most child victims of violence in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia find themselves unable to speak up and file charges in court, according to a new UNICEF regional report launched here today.

The report, Children’s Equitable Access to Justice in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, sheds light on the tremendous barriers children face in seeking fair and effective solutions to put right the injustice and discrimination in their lives.

However, it also cites notable progress in the administration of justice. Governments in the region are increasingly adjusting their procedures in courts and police stations to protect the rights of children, in line with international standards. Legal, paralegal and social support to children going through justice processes is increasingly being provided. Through child rights centres or legal clinics, children and their families can obtain information on the avenues for redress, receive legal and social advice, be referred to a lawyer, doctor or psychologist or other services. In some cases, they can receive direct legal assistance to initiate a judicial process.

Speaking at a policy discussion where the report was presented, Susan Bissell, UNICEF Global Chief of Child Protection, said: “Everywhere around us, every day, children are affected by violence and abuse, yet only a fraction of them have access to a fair justice system able to make decisions in their best interests.”

“The right to access justice still seems, in the minds of many, inconceivable when it comes to children. We urge governments and key partners to include children’s specific rights and needs in justice reforms at all levels.”

The discussion was co-organized by the UNICEF Regional Office and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in partnership with the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Children’s Rights.

Other child rights violations in the region are also unreported or unchallenged in court. These include:
• Denying children with disabilities the opportunity to go to school or forcibly separating them from their parents;
• Denying children from Roma or poor families in rural areas health care, identity cards or social welfare benefits.
• Disregarding the best interests of children during custody issues in divorce proceedings.

Judicial or administrative decisions on these and other rights violations can set a precedent for other children and have a life-changing impact on their future.

Deeply entrenched social and cultural beliefs have made it unacceptable for children in the region to confide in an adult outside of the home about rights violations within the home, in school or in their community, much less bring a complaint through the judicial system citing fear of retribution for themselves and their families, the report says.

The regional study, focusing on Albania, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Montenegro, was conducted with the International Development Law Organization.

In all the countries in the study, the majority of children said they were not aware of any specific services and resources for remedy that they can turn to if they are in difficulty. Among the most vulnerable groups are children born into poverty, children from Roma communities and children with disabilities.

When finding themselves in the judicial process, children said they were not accompanied by specialized legal assistance and faced complex and lengthy procedures.

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To download the report: http://uni.cf/1FkhxFn
To download video, b-roll and photos of children with mental disabilities seeking justice in Bulgaria: http://bit.ly/1AFDi5Z

Notes to editors
The findings from the report were presented together with other newly released evidence on children’s access to justice at a policy discussion on 3 June 2015 in Brussels on ‘Prioritising Access to Justice for All Children in Europe and Beyond’. The event brought together policy makers and legal practitioners to discuss challenges and ideas for a common way forward to ensure that all children, especially the most vulnerable, have access to equitable, fair and inclusive justice. The policy discussion took place in connection with the annual European Forum on the Rights of the Child.

About UNICEF
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit: www.unicef.org. For more information about UNICEF CEE/CIS, visit: www.unicef.org/ceecis

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Download UNICEF multimedia content at: http://weshare.unicef.org/mediaresources

For further information, please contact:
Kristen Elsby, UNICEF CEE/CIS, Tel: +41 79 938 82 73, kelsby@unicef.org
Lely Djuhari, UNICEF CEE/CIS, Tel: +41 79 204 44 82, ldjuhari@unicef.org

 


 

 

 

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