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Study recommends ways to improve juvenile justice in Afghanistan

© UNICEF/ 2008/Sahil
UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Catherine Mbengue speaks at the launch of a study by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission urging full implementation of the country’s juvenile code for children in conflict with the law.

By Roshan Khadivi

KABUL, Afghanistan, 1 July 2008 – A recent report on juvenile justice in Afghanistan notes that there is a long way to go towards realizing a fair and child-friendly system in the country.

The report, entitled 'The Situation for Children in Conflict with the Law in Afghanistan', was launched this week by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in close collaboration with UNICEF.

“The study shows that children in detention face various rights violations – including maltreatment, lack of access to education and health services,” said AIHRC Child Rights Commissioner Hengameh Anwari. “Lack of due process in the juvenile justice system appears to be a serious concern.”

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Based on government data from March 2008, a total of 523 juveniles were found in 29 juvenile facilities in Afghanistan. Some 57 per cent of the children were reportedly between the ages of 16 and 18.

© UNICEF/ 2008/Sahil
Child Rights Commissioner Hengameh Anowari from the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission presents the findings of the new report on the situation of children in detention.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) advocates for diversion programmes, which prevent young people from being convicted for petty offenses and encourage effective education and communication. The Convention insists that institutionalization should be the last resort.

The AIHRC report gives key recommendations toward improving the juvenile justice system in Afghanistan – and working to make the system accord with the CRC, which Afghanistan has signed.

‘A milestone study’

UNICEF provides technical assistance to the AIHRC, which has helped monitor the situation of children who are in conflict with the law. The knowledge and experience gained from this ongoing monitoring should greatly assist in the reform of Afghanistan’s juvenile system. 

“This report is a milestone study, because the outcome will help improve the juvenile justice system,” said UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Catherine Mbengue. “The aim of a juvenile justice system should be the rehabilitation and reintegration of those children in conflict with the law into society, and not their punishment.”

Following the launch of the study on 24 June, workshops were planned for the government ministries, legal organizations and provincial representatives from juvenile rehabilitation centres in Afghanistan. These workshops are intended to initiate a crucial dialogue toward a common vision of improved juvenile justice here.

Key steps to protect child rights

A week prior to the launch, Afghanistan took a key step when a UNICEF-supported agreement was signed between the Ministry of Interior, the Attorney General's Office and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

This agreement on 'Referrals and Cooperation between Social Workers, Police Officers and Prosecutors' will guide these public servants and officials on better implementation of the Juvenile Code and protection of the rights of children in conflict with the law. It will also establish the role of social workers within the existing system.



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