Child-friendly spaces in Montenegrin judiciary
With support from the Norwegian Embassy and UNICEF Montenegro, first child friendly rooms introduced in three courts and three state prosecutor's offices in Montenegro to ensure appropriate child participation and care during judicial proceedings
PODGORICA, 22. SEPTEMBER 2021 – Going to a court, a prosecutor's office or to the police can be one of the most stressful events in the life of a child. To prevent this, it is necessary not just to have specially trained professionals for working with children in courts, prosecutors' offices, centers for social work and the police, but also to establish premises that provide a warm, safe and trustful atmosphere for children who want to testify about traumatizing experiences and express their view in all the matters affecting their life.
Thanks to the support of the Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade and UNICEF Montenegro, the Supreme Court and Supreme State Prosecutor's Office of Montenegro established child friendly spaces in three basic courts (Podgorica, Nikšić and Bijelo Polje) and three state prosecutor's offices (the Basic State Prosecutor's Office in Berane and Podgorica and the Higher State Prosecutor's Office in Bijelo Polje).
I am happy to see that this project has reached out to other cities in Montenegro as well, such as Nikšić, Bijelo Polje and Berane, and I hope that our achievements will inspire the Government of Montenegro to broaden the reach-out even further, and include even more cities in this important enterprise.
Each year, several hundred children in Montenegro are in contact with the law as victims or witnesses of crimes, while at least a thousand court cases concern children and their rights. These child-friendly rooms are designed and equipped in a way to reduce stress and support children to come forward with their stories. Active participation of children in their cases is beneficial both for them and for the legal process. It can help them recover, build self-confidence, develop a sense of responsibility, increase the understanding of their situation and facilitate finding innovative solutions that are in their best interest.
Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that children who are capable of forming their own views have the right to participate and express those views freely in all judicial or administrative proceedings that affect them. We must create conditions to support all children in Montenegro to realize this right without being additionally traumatized.
Creating the necessary preconditions for a child-friendly judiciary is part of Montenegro’s ongoing reforms aimed at strengthening the rule of law under the Chapter 23, one of the most important accession conditions to the EU.
By equipping child-friendly rooms in judiciary, important steps have been undertaken to create conditions for an equal access to justice for all children. On this occasion, I would like to express special gratitude to UNICEF and Norwegian Government for their unconditional support in the implementation of project activities. I am confident that international partners will continue to support this area of work in future too, which will be of extraordinary importance for realizing priorities from the Chapter 23 of the EU accession process.
The establishment of child-friendly facilities is one of the activities envisaged by Montenegro’s Strategy for Judicial Reform (2019-2021), as well as the Strategy for the Realization of the Rights of the Child (2019-2023).
Courts have a key role in advancing child-friendly proceedings for children who come into contact with the law. Creating adequate spaces in courts is an important step forward in the comprehensive protection and quality promotion of child rights in Montenegro.
In order for all children to have access to child-friendly justice system Montenegro needs to establish this kind of child-friendly rooms in the remaining 12 basic courts and 11 state prosecutor's offices in the country.
I am confident that the newly equipped spaces will facilitate implementation of proceedings in which minors are victims of a crime, as well as their protection.
The establishment of the first child-friendly premises was realized within the subregional initiative "Equitable Access to Justice for Children" implemented by the Ministry of Justice, Human and Minority Rights in Montenegro in cooperation with the highest judicial institutions, with UNICEF technical support and financial support from the Government of the Kingdom of Norway.