UNICEF and Union of Turkish Bar Associations launch innovative child-friendly legal aid project to promote equal access to justice for all children
ANKARA, 09 June 2023 – UNICEF and the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (UTBA) today launched a new project focusing on child-friendly legal aid to strengthen the knowledge of lawyers and the bar associations on children's rights and to ensure equality in children's access to justice.
The Improving the Capacity of Lawyers and Bar Associations on Promotion, Protection and Monitoring of Children’s Rights (ÇABA) Project will be implemented in close partnership between UTBA, the European Union Delegation and UNICEF with funding of approximately €3.2M of the European Union.
The 3- year project is designed to develop of a full-fledged training programme on child-friendly legal aid and children’s rights in the justice system for around 2000 lawyers who are working with children, across Türkiye; establish five pilot Child Rights Centers to enhance the monitoring capacity of Bar Associations and increase knowledge and coordination among legal professionals. The pilot Child Rights Centers will be established in Adana, Aydın, Batman, Erzurum and Trabzon.
With the impact of the training programme and the planned Child Rights Centers to be established within the project, UNICEF estimates that at least 100 000 children will indirectly benefit from improved legal aid services.
In his speech Mr. Ramunas Januaskas, First Counsellor and Head of Communication Section of the EU Delegation to Türkiye said:
The goal of the ÇABA Project is to promote children's rights and ensure children's equal access to justice by strengthening the national capacity and by raising public awareness. It is crucial that lawyers and bar associations are equipped with basic principles of children's rights valid all over the world.
In her opening speech Regina De Dominicis, UNICEF Representative to Türkiye stated: “There have been commendable reforms and great progress over the last two decades on child justice, which, as UNICEF, we are also proud to be a part of,however there are still challenges concerning children’s right to access to equitable justice in Türkiye. UNICEF believes that the legal empowerment of children is an accelerator for change. Our Reimagine Justice for Children agenda, which was declared by our Executive Director in November 2021 in the World Congress on Justice with Children, clearly underlines that every child should access free legal aid and representation, national cadres of specialized lawyers and paralegal services should be strengthened and strategic litigation on justice for children, for broader policy impact should be supported.”
According to the latest Judicial Statistics of March 2023, the number of child offenders currently under trial reached up to 163.000. Despite the significant number of those alleged child offenders before the courts, more than half of the criminal investigations concerning children, which is more than 100.000, have ended with non-prosecution.
Mr Erinç Sagkan, Attorney at Law President, Union of Turkish Bar Associations said:
"The Union of Turkish Bar Association aims to contribute to systematic developments in the field of human rights in our country to increase the professional capacity of lawyers through many different projects and to continue its work with determination in this direction. I believe the project that we are launching today is an important step towards fulfilling this sensitive responsibility."