Justice for children

A justice system that is fully harmonised with the principle of the best interest of the child is essential for all children, particularly for children from vulnerable and dysfunctional families.

A teenage girl sits in front of the Center for Social Prevention Activities
UNICEF Serbia/2017/Pancic

Children encounter the justice system as victims, witnesses, because they are in conflict with the law or as parties in civil proceedings, such as in custody-related cases.

A justice system that is fully harmonised with the principle of the best interests of the child is essential for all children, particularly for children from vulnerable and dysfunctional families.

Out of the total number of reported children in conflict with the law, diversionary measures are applied before criminal proceedings in only 9.5 % of cases.

UNICEF supports changes that help ensure the full protection of all children, and in particular children victims of crime, especially when providing testimonies in court and when overcoming trauma of violence, abuse or other criminal acts. 

We are helping to build a system based on the ‘best interests of the child’ in judicial proceedings, one in which child participation is supported when decisions are made about their custody, care and protection. 

Psycho-educational workshop for children with behavioral problems: Creativity and careers
UNICEF Serbia/2017/Pancic

UNICEF supports changes that help ensure the full protection of all children, and in particular children victims of crime, especially when providing testimonies in court and when overcoming trauma of violence, abuse or other criminal acts. 

We contribute to improving children's access to justice, and support the Government of Serbia in its efforts to establish a system that prioritises reintegration of juvenile offenders over punitive measures.

The goal is to ensure that juvenile justice is of a restorative character and that it assists children in returning to society, rather than pushing them further on the path of crime and exclusion. 

  • Between 3,100 and 4,000 offenses committed by children are reported every year;
  • 3%-6% of reported children in conflict with the law are sentenced to juvenile prison or closed correctional institutions;
  • A wide gender difference exists in cases of both reported and sentenced juvenile offenders. Nevertheless, the number of girls committing crimes is consistently on the increase and is now close to 10%; 
  • The number of juvenile offenders referred to diversionary measures is consistently on the increase, which is a positive trend showing prioritisation for restorative justice and reintegration over punitive measures.  It is now close to 20% of all reported juveniles in conflict with the law;
  • The number of ‘younger juveniles’ in the total numbers of juvenile offending is on the rise, particularly the youngest group of youth that have attained the age of criminal responsibility (14 and 15 years old), which comprises around 50% of the total number of reported crimes.