Joint action for child-friendly justice for every child launched

20 January 2021
Adolescent boys playing football
UNICEF/2019/Georgiev

Skopje, 20 January 2021 – At a panel discussion Child-friendly justice for every child, the Ministers of Justice, Interior and Labour and Social Policy, together with the Delegation of the European Union and UNICEF launched the joint action to support a child-friendly justice system.

Based on equitable access to justice for all children, being offenders, victims or witnesses,  this joint action aims to support the legislative and policy reform, capacity strengthening, development of alternatives to child detention, and guaranteeing a child’s access to justice, by adapting justice and social welfare systems to their rights and needs.

While the country has made progress in advancing child rights and justice for children system, more efforts are needed to support vulnerable and marginalized families and children at risk with special focus on protecting children victims and witnesses of crime and ensuring access to information on their rights.

One of the principles of child-friendly justice, which is part of this joint action, is looking at detention as a measure of last resort, moving the focus to alternative measures and reintegration of children in conflict with the law. This way, boys and girls in the justice system receive additional support for rehabilitation, resocialization and reintegration into society, based on their individual needs and can continue with their regular education and community life.

“The Juvenile justice system needs to be anchored in healing, learning and rehabilitation, not in punishment. As adults we learn what is right and wrong, however children need mentoring and guidance and may come into contact with the law when they don’t have positive mentoring and guidance,” said Patrizia Di Giovanni, UNICEF Representative.

 “When children are in contact with the justice and child protection systems, we must ensure that contact is respectful of their rights and dignity, that decisions and judgments are rights-based, compassionate, and clear. Our objective must be to ensure that a child’s contact with these systems represents an opportunity, not a threat. Such contact must constitute a positive turning point for children, even when they are in conflict with the law. The EU is firmly committed to promoting justice for children and children’s rights and to contribute to improve the policies and practices in the country to leave no child behind”, said David Geer, Ambassador of the European Union.

Juvenile justice and social protection experts and practitioners who took part in the panel discussion discussed how to ensure the best interest of children is protected at any stage of the procedure; and how to advance knowledge and skills of all professionals who deal with children in contact with the law to minimize trauma and risk of victimisation.

“All institutions must be prepared to prevent secondary victimization of children in conflict with the law, because often these children are sufficiently traumatized in life. There is a need for continuous education and strengthening of the specialized skills of subjects in the system of justice for children and this is one of the main goals of the new Law on Justice for Children,” said the Minister of Justice Mr. Bojan Marichikj. “At the same time, the entities of the system of justice for children are increasingly applying measures/sanctions which don’t include deprivation of liberty of children which corresponds with the Law on Justice for Children.”

 “The police, as the most visible part of state administration, has duty and obligation to provide special protection and support to all children at risk, children in conflict with the law, as well as children victims of crime, and to treat them with special care in accordance with their rights which are indivisible and interdependent. Therefore, it is an imperative that the police accept and consistently applies the guiding principles of justice for children”, said Oliver Spasovski, Minister of Interior.

“The social reform which we initiated in 2019 envisages new way of working with families at social risk, including children, namely case management which involves professionals working in the Centers for Social Work who respond to the individual needs of each child,” said Jagoda Shahpaska, Minister of Labour and Social Policy.

 

The two-year initiative Just(ice) children – EU for juvenile and child-friendly justice” funded by the delegation of European Union and co-funded by UNICEF will support Government reform efforts to ensure the justice system protects the rights of children who come in contact with the law.  It complements the commitment which the government made by formally joining the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children committing to undertake concrete actions to progressively end violence against children by the year 2022. UNICEF supports all processes that build a comprehensive child protection system that can prevent and respond to all forms of violence against children in the country.

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