Justice for Children

UNICEF helps ensure that all legal proceedings are carried out in a child friendly manner.

a child's drawing
UNICEF/2018

The challenge

Children who come into contact with the law should be treated in a child-sensitive manner.

Whether a suspect or a victim of a crime, many Moldovan boys and girls are confronted with a justice system that is primarily focused on solving the case, with little regard for the child’s needs. Children who engage with the justice system face obstacles, from laws that overlook their specific rights and treat them as adults, to a lack of legal aid.

Unfortunately, in the case of children who have committed a crime, detention is still not consistently used as a last resort solution, for the shortest possible duration. Alternatives to detention as well as rehabilitation and reintegration services for the child and her/his family are scarce.

An increasing number of police officers, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges are being sensitized to the needs of the child in the justice system. Nonetheless, the authorities need to step up measures to ensure that all legal proceedings are carried out in a child friendly manner, that children at risk are identified and supported before their behavior escalates to delinquency, and that those above the age of criminal responsibility are, to the extent possible, diverted from the criminal justice system towards psychological support, behaviour change, and educational services.

An estimated 4,000 children come into contact with the law each year in Moldova.

The solution

UNICEF champions access to justice for all children

UNICEF has been supporting Moldova in its justice sector reform with a strong focus on children.Today, more children are diverted from the criminal justice system and fewer children are sentenced or end up in pre-trial and post-sentence detention.

Police and justice have learned to treat children who come into contact with the law in a child-sensitive manner.

UNICEF has been supporting collaboration of the justice and law enforcement with the social welfare, education, and health sectors to focus, on the one hand, on services to prevent children from coming into contact with the law, and on the other, to ensure adequate support to children and their families once they have come into contact.

Recent initiatives show promising changes.

Laws have also been modified to ensure the rights of child victims of crimes with new protection mechanisms in the form of child-friendly hearing rooms in criminal proceedings. In all these efforts, we provide technical expertise, advocacy, and assistance to the Ministry of Justice in its convening role in the justice sector reform.

We have supported training of practitioners, for them to have better understanding of the needs of child victims, but also acquire the skills to address those needs in their daily work.

All children in contact with the law are entitled to free legal aid. Solitary confinement of children has been discontinued.

While initially focusing on the rights of children in conflict with the law, it has more recently expanded its focus to include child victims and witnesses of crime.