Child Protection

Special Protection

Prevention of Child Abuse


Juvenile Justice

© UNICEF/DR/2006/Guzman

In the international context there has been a constant concern about the treatment meted out to young people who break the law. As they are minors, and still in the process of learning and development, they should not receive the same treatment as adults who commit a crime.

Article 40 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child refers to the rights of young people who are in conflict with the law. It stresses that young people who are accused or pronounced guilty of having infringed the law need to be treated in a certain way, from the moment of accusation up to sentencing, which implies going through the process of investigation, detention, presentation of charges, a period of remand custody (where necessary), trial and application of the corresponding penalties, as well as promoting education, integrated care and re-inserting the young person into the family and the community.

The same article commits the State Parties to promoting the establishment of a justice system that is especially applicable to people under the age of 18.

When a young person breaks the law it has to be assumed that society as a whole is involved in this criminal offense, because it implies that society, the family and the State have failed in their social project.

In general terms, when a young person commits an offence, s/he  did not  have the chance of growing up in an environment where basic rights have been in effect, especially the right to live in violence-free surroundings. Poverty, children’s exploitation and abuse in the domestic setting are forms of violence against children that contribute to criminal behaviour.

The juvenile penal justice model adopted by the Dominican Republic, in the Code for the Protection System and Basic Rights of Children and Adolescents (Law 136-03), recognises the young offender’s penal responsibility, making a distinction between social or family conflicts and actual criminal behaviour. The jurisdiction responsible for children and adolescents is committed to a flexible, impartial, confidential judicial process that guarantees their rights and that needs to be completed as swiftly as possible. It also makes provisions for continual scrutiny for fulfilling the penalties imposed by the courts and strengthens the legal position of the young people concerned.

Law 136-03 as it relates to the Penal Justice of the Young Person clearly sets out the correct process. This law assumes defence and accusation, the types of actions that could develop during the process (penal action, civil action, ways of anticipated termination of the process) and, of course, it defines the criminal subjects (the accused young person, their parents, the victim, the technical defence, the legal authorities, the specialised judicial police, and the integrated care multidisciplinary team).

It also establishes the young person’s penal process, including access to habeas corpus and protection recourse, as well as the penalties, which are divided into three categories: socio-educational penalties, supervision and counselling orders and penalties involving a custodial sentence.

The aim of socio-educational penalties and counselling and supervision orders is education, rehabilitation and social integration of young people who are in conflict with the law. A judge has the responsibility for overseeing that these are carried out, and can include conditions, warnings and the obligation to undergo medical care at a health facility.

Custodial sentencing is defined in article 339 as an exceptional measure, only applicable when a young person has pleaded guilty of, at least, one of the following offences: murder, permanent physical harm, rape and sexual violence, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, and sale and distribution of narcotic drugs.

The length of penalties involving custody ranges from three years for young people between the ages of 13 and 15 at the moment of committing the offence, to five years for young people between the ages of 16 and 18 in similar conditions. The implementation and fulfilment of the penalties are the responsibility of the National Office for Integrated Care for Young People in Conflict with the Law, part of the Dominican Republic’s Attorney General’s Office.

Currently some 350 minors are in custody in several national facilities, and every week about 60 go in front of Specialised Tribunals. Although the Law establishes that deprivation of liberty is exceptional, to date no programmes have been created to put this legal principle into effect.

The current challenge for the Attorney General’s Office is to strengthen the recently created National Office for Integrated Care for Young People in Conflict with the Law in order to implement national legislation and international commitments faithfully.

UNICEF–Dominican Republic has been supporting training activities, institutional strengthening and coordination, as well as social mobilisation, through the Judicial School, the Legal System School and the Commission for the Implementation of the Justice System for Children and Adolescents (CEJNNA).

Up to now, more than 500 multipliers have been trained in the Legal sector, and in addition social mobilisation processes have been conducted in a number of municipalities across the country, as well as discussion forums with university students.

Progress made on the statistical system for adolescents in conflict with the Law





Juvenile Justice and International Agreements

The United Nations has created several specialised instruments  related to young people who break the law: the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (the “Beijing Rules”), the Directives for Protection of Minors in Custody, the Directives for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (the RIAD sp? (is this named after the capital of Saudi Arabia?) Rules), and the United Nations Rules on Non-Custodial Measures (the Tokyo Rules).

To consult these documents you can visit the United Nations website: or go directly to the section on International Human Rights Instruments.



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