“Justice for Children, Justice with Children”

A working group during the 30th anniversary celebrations of the Convention on the rights of the child

© DCI / 1st session with a panel composed of Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy, Ambassador Socorro Flores Liera and Prof Ann Skelton

As we celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, months after a global call to action on justice for children, justice for all in the context of SDG 16+ which was issued in June, that is endorsed by several international, inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations, raising a multitude of challenges in achieving the SDG 16+ targets. The “Justice for Children, Justice with Children” event was organised to discuss one of the most the crucial ones: creating key sustainable conditions for the participation of children in the justice system.

The event consisted of two main sessions and concluded with an interactive break-out session to give the opportunity for both the panellist and the audience to express their opinions on this issue.

A distinguished first panel composed of: Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger (Permanent Representative of Austria to the UN in Geneva), Prof. Ann Skelton (Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child), Ambassador Socorro Flores Liera (Permanent Representative of Mexico to the UN in Geneva) opened the session. During this debate, all three distinguished panellists strongly highlighted the fact that, despite substantial developments that have been achieved in many areas concerning child rights throughout the thirty years from the adoption of the Convection, less progress has been made when it comes to children’s rights in relation to the justice system. Moreover, the panellists outlined some of the most persistent challenges concerning children in the justice system, such as: the enduring overuse of deprivation of liberty for children, the unacceptable minimum age of criminal responsibility in certain countries, the lack of justice measures adapted to children’s needs and the lack of alternatives to detention. 

The first session concluded with the intervention of Saadia, a 12 year-old human rights defender from Morocco and one of the laureates of the DCI Children Award 2019. The young human right activist had the unique opportunity to present her project realized together with a group of children in cooperation with DCI-Morocco/Bayti, called “For child-friendly justice”. This short film has been granted unanimously by the International Jury the first prize and consisted in an animated video explaining the struggles of children within and around the justice system. Moreover, Saadia’s inspiring, profound and meaningful message was captured as soon as she presented herself to the audience: “I am now here to speak on behalf of all the children of the world who need justice. It is responsibility and duty of the States to protect them and to ensure their basic rights, rather than punish them”.

© DCI / Intervention of Saadia, a 12-year-old human rights defender from Morocco and one of the laureates of the DCI Children Award 2019

The first session concluded with the intervention of Saadia, a 12 year-old human rights defender from Morocco and one of the laureates of the DCI Children Award 2019. The young human right activist had the unique opportunity to present her project realized together with a group of children in cooperation with DCI-Morocco/Bayti, called “For child-friendly justice”. This short film has been granted unanimously by the International Jury the first prize and consisted in an animated video explaining the struggles of children within and around the justice system. Moreover, Saadia’s inspiring, profound and meaningful message was captured as soon as she presented herself to the audience: “I am now here to speak on behalf of all the children of the world who need justice. It is responsibility and duty of the States to protect them and to ensure their basic rights, rather than punish them”.

The second session, with other panellists, focused on an interactive debate over the following thematic: empowerment in an era of participation (within the justice context). During this debate, the President of the DCI Movement, Mr. Abdul Manaff Kemokai, outlined the different challenges regarding the implementation of child-friendly justice practices, from the African perspective.

The debate continued on the priority issues which need to be satisfied and implemented in order to achieve meaningful change in child-friendly practices in the context of the justice system. In this regard, as Ms. Taghreed Jaber (Regional Director for Penal Reform International – MENA) pointed out, “what really matters when it comes to give an effective outcome to any type of approach or mechanism is to ensure its institutionalisation (within state and governmental framework).”

Ms. Nantina Tsekeri, Director of DCI-Greece, intervened during the debate on justice for children in the context of migration and access to justice, sharing a real story of an Afghan young boy, who, in the course of his short life, had to go through several struggles when he decided to leave his country due to his experience of mass violence against him.

© DCI / 2nd session with a panel composed of Ms Nantina Tsekeri, DCI President Mr Abdul Manaff Kemokai and Ms Taghreed Jaber among the experts