Working Group I: Law, politics and reality – how to proceed and advance the best interests of the child
Rapporteur: Anna D. TOMASI, Advocacy Officer, DCI-IS & Sara OVIEDO, current member of CRC
The Working Group noted the lack of coordination and consistency between juvenile justice systems and public preventative policies, which often remain separate and divided. The system, as a whole, must be improved and better coordinated in order to be effective and efficient. Essentially, there seems to be a clash of paradigms within the State: conservative versus progressive.
A further recognised issue of concern was the term ‘adolescent’, as opposed to ‘children’, which causes confusion and categorization and clearly goes against article 1 of the UNCRC: “For the purposes of the present Convention, a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”. Adolescents remain “invisible” citizens, not being taken into account in policies or legislation. Moreover adolescents are generally stigmatised. Opportunities must be created in order to direct these children in the right direction. The role of parents, communities and civil society is vital in the protection of all children; as is the need to create adequate opportunities, specifically for children of this “adolescent” age bracket.
Working Group II: What actions should be taken to protect and promote adolescent victims of institutional violence in Juvenile Justice?
Rapporteur: Rose Marie ACHA, DCI Regional Programme for Latin America
The Working Group discussed how the Latin American region presents some common characteristics throughout its various states: corruption, lack of programs and services. Practical actions on the ground are much needed: everyone must participate, not solely the state or civil society but both of these must coordinate and plan together. Furthermore, there is no autonomous complaint mechanisms present in the region. Recommendations and proposals reached include:
1. Facilitating complaint procedures
2. Comprehensive organization (address problems and implement capacity building)
3. Permanent monitoring and evaluation programs
4. Prevention to torture: ratification of the UN CAT and OPCAT. Further actions would include: monitor and evaluate strategies; legal implementation; guidelines for judges; specific training on the rights of the child.
Working Group III: Implementation phase – the exception is the rule: What to do with the custody and non-custodial sentences
Rapporteur: Marcos GUILLEN, DCI-Argentina & Jorge SANCHEZ, Terres des Hommes – Nicaragua
The Working Group recognised: the existence of Codes for Children and Adolescents throughout the states of the region; the number of actors within the justice system working specifically on the subject of children; the existence of social institutions working on the protection of children’s rights; and the active procedures and institutional processes for children and adolescents.
It was also pointed out, however, what is lacking in the region: specialised training for actors within the justice system; more of a structurally organized system; reinsertion programs for children; awareness-raising campaigns; monitoring and evaluation of measures imposed.
Finally, to conclude, needed actions were defined: parliamentary lobbying to enforce legislation regarding children’s rights and the realization thereof; prohibit lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility; data collection at national level within the existing services and centres dealing with children; specialised interdisciplinary teams to deal with children; promote a human rights based approach; constant visits and monitoring of juvenile detention centres; work and coordinate with public means of communication; promote alternatives to detention in each and every case; promote regional meetings and information exchanges.
In addition, the system as a whole must be more “humanized” and specific awareness-raising, monitoring, actions and measures must take place, i.e.:
1. Legal reform (harmonizing national and international standards)
2. Resources for centres working with adolescents (training)
3. Judicial (strengthen human rights offices)
Working Group IV: The prevention of violence, how to practice, effectively, the recommendations of the expert consultation?
Rapporteur: Diana FIORINI, Child Advocacy Center San Isidro – Argentina
A constant theme and preoccupation recognised by the Group was the widespread practice of institutional violence.
As a document for discussion, the Group made use of the Joint report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children on prevention of and responses to violence against children within the juvenile justice system (A/HRC/21/25); particularly the provisions referring to the establishment and strengthening of accountability mechanisms (paragraphs 97 to 100). The Group concluded that independent specialised mechanisms are to be established in order to verify accountability; such mechanisms are to be decentralised in order to guarantee accessibility. Legal and political reforms, as well as child participation are required. Ratification of the UN Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol is strongly encouraged. The lack of resources and fragmentation of the system was also noted, as well as the important role of the media and it is the “demonization” of juvenile crime.