Justice systems must help children overcome fear and trauma, not make them worse

Published in Justice
Tuesday, 12 May 2020 17:05

Every year, thousands of children across Council of Europe member states are involved in judicial proceedings. Whether a victim of crime or in conflict with the law, they are often vulnerable and in need of protection: in other words, they need justice systems to be “child-friendly”.

Promoting child-friendly restorative justice and exchanging best practices in this area has been one of the priorities of the Georgian Presidency of the Council of Europe.

Today, the Council of Europe has published a set of statements and resources on restorative justice and participation of children in judicial proceedings that were meant to be presented at a high-level conference in Strasbourg cancelled due to the COVID 19 health crisis in Europe.

The crisis and particularly the introduction of broad confinement measures in an effort to save lives were mentioned by Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić in her welcome message. “However, confinement can leave children locked in with their abusers, with little opportunity to raise the alarm”, she warned. “These children must have a place to go with access to professionals who can help them to piece their lives back together”.

The difficulties in accessing justice is not something new, Secretary General Burić underlined. “Victims may experience fear, shame and feel that they are among the least likely groups to be heard or have their views taken into account during judicial processes,” she stated. “Our justice systems must help them to overcome the trauma, not compound it.”

In her statement Thea Tsulukiani, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Justice of Georgia presented the Georgian national experience with restorative justice for children in conflict with law since the launch of reforms several years ago. “Breaking away with the zero-tolerance in the juvenile justice system highlighting criminal sanctions and massive use of detention rather than non-custodial alternatives, prevalent in Georgia before 2012, was the single biggest challenge that we encountered.”

The Juvenile Justice Code adopted in 2015 introduced an entirely new philosophy for children in conflict with the law, where non-custodial measures were made a default and criminal sanction the exception, the Minister said.

“We are making maximum use of diversion and mediation for children and young people under the Code whereby juveniles are dealt with without resorting to judicial proceedings or trial with human rights and legal safeguards respected”, she stated. “It is an encouragement offered to young people in conflict with the law to return to law-abiding life without punishment nor conviction, in exchange for voluntary participation in the programmes tailored to their needs, with the involvement of an independent and neutral person – a mediator,” the Minister explained, stressing that as of 2019, only 9% of juveniles previously involved in diversion/mediation programs committed crime again.

The creation of a Child Referral Mechanism and Referral Centre for juveniles in January 2020, and the introduction of “micro prisons” (family-type establishments), with the first two to be operational by the end of 2021, are examples of the holistic approach to child-friendly justice, Minister Tsulukiani said.

All the documents and statements, including those by Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos, President of the European Court of Human Rights, by Irakli SHOTADZE, General Prosecutor of Georgia,  Stefan SCHENNACH, member of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Maria-Andriani KOSTOPOULOU, Chair of the Steering Committee for the Rights of the Child of the Council of Europe and Drahoslav ŠTEFÁNEK, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on Migration and Refugees, can be found on the dedicated page.

Source: https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/-/justice-systems-must-help-children-overcome-fear-and-trauma-not-make-them-worse 

Civil Society in 71 Countries Urges International Law for Peace and Justice for Religious Freedom

Published in World
Friday, 16 March 2018 11:19

HWPL and civil society groups in 117 cities advocate comprehensive cooperation for peace and denounce anti-peace activities

While the global society has been sending an interest and encouragement to the historic decision of the North Korea-US dialogue following the ‘Peace Olympics’ held in South Korea, a Korea-based international peace NGO held an event commemorating “The 2nd Annual Commemoration of the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW)” on March 14. In Seoul, South Korea, on the theme of "A Call for Building a World of Peace and Realizing Justice" was attended by 1,000 participants including representatives of politics, religion, and civic groups at home and abroad.

The host organization, Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL) affiliated with UN DPI and UN ECOSOC, announced the DPCW on March 14, 2016, to strengthen a solidarity of peace through a comprehensive cooperation of all sectors of society and to establish legally binding international law necessary for peacebuilding. The DPCW with 10 articles and 38 clauses, drafted by international law experts, includes provisions to avoid war-related actions and achieve peace, including respect on international law, ethnic/religious harmony, and a culture of peace.

Mr. Man Hee Lee, Chairman of HWPL, highlighted that every individual in the global society is responsible for constructing global peace. He appealed to the participants by saying, “Rather than waiting to take peace for granted, it is we who should put an end to war to protect humanity and our globe, and leave peace as a legacy for future generations.” “Law of today cannot compensate for the lives sacrificed from war. What we need is an instrument that protects human life, the very law that prevents war,” he added.

“No human being and no animal on planet Earth can survive from weapons (of mass destruction). Even an error or an accident can cause widespread damage to human life and property which cannot be replenished. We all have to work 365 days and 24 hours together for peace as a messenger of peace,” said, Mr. Pravin H. Parekh, President of Confederation of Indian Bar who participated in drafting the DPCW.

“If we want to put an end to war and build peace, let us work together for peace and overcome the boundary of state, ethnicity and religion. We have to think about how to resolve international conflicts through the adoption of the DPCW as a UN resolution. And the international society should provide assistance to facilitate peace education proposed by HWPL,” emphasized Mr. Deok Gyu Lim, former president of the International Law Association Korean Branch.

In the event, HWPL issued the official statement against anti-peace actions that hinder peace and justice with unsubstantiated information and distortion from socio-economic motives and human rights abuses by religious intolerance. In the statement it addressed that HWPL “will no longer tolerate attempts to obstruct the work for peace, putting personal gain over the common good of humanity. We urge all those yearning for peace and justice to take the right path, not the path marked with lies, and join the effort to build peace together.”

The multi-national events for the 2nd Annual Commemoration of the DPCW calling for building a world of peace and realizing justice were organized in 166 cities in 71 countries, including South Korea, the United States, Germany, Ukraine, Britain, and China. 150,000 citizens and leaders of all sectors in the world took part in this global event urging the establishment of international law for the realization of a peaceful, just society and the denunciation of anti-peace activity.

Georgia conference increases access to justice

Published in Politics
Wednesday, 23 November 2016 14:50
An international conference organised under the EU-UN Joint Programme “Justice for All” has opened in Tbilisi on 21 November. The Tbilisi Mediation Days conference aims to enhance mediation in Georgia as an alternative method of dispute resolution, and contribute to ongoing reforms in the justice system. The event brings together experts and practitioners in the field of mediation from six countries, including the US, UK, Poland, Slovenia and Georgia as well as representatives of the Georgian Government, civil society, educational institutions and international organisations.
“Mediation has great importance for the parties of a dispute for resolving their problems in a speedier and less costly way. On the other hand, mediation helps release the courts from excessive caseload and improves access to justice. Sharing the best international practice in mediation will assist Georgia to develop legal framework in this field,” said Aleksandre Baramidze, First Deputy of Minister of Justice of Georgia.  
Conference participants have addressed a draft law on mediation in Georgia, discussed a research document, “Mediation in Georgia – From Traditions to Modern Days”, and have provided a masterclass for students.
“Greater use of alternative dispute resolution processes, particularly mediation, is part of Georgia’s Association Agreement with the European Union. To achieve progress in this area, the European Union closely works with the main stakeholders in the national justice system and academia, as well as with our international partners,” said Kaido Sirel, Deputy Head of Cooperation Section of the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia.

Moldova: EU and Council of Europe showcase achievements in justice and human rights

Published in World
Wednesday, 19 October 2016 09:56
The European Union and Council of Europe today presented in Chisinau the mid-term results of their joint projects for Eastern Partnership countries, with a special focus on Moldova.
The four country-specific projects under the EU-CoE Programmatic Cooperation Framework (PCF) in 2015-2017 focus on supporting national efforts to prevent and combat discrimination, strengthening the efficiency of justice, reinforcing respect for human rights in the implementation of the country’s digital agenda, as well as cooperation on electoral matters. The media were also told of the results of 14 regional initiatives rolled out in Eastern Partnership countries, in which Moldova was also involved.
The projects are funded by the European Union (90%), and co-financed (10%) and implemented by the Council of Europe. Their total budget is EUR 2.4 million.
The EU-Council of Europe Programmatic Co-operation Framework aims to provide extensive and substantial expertise on strengthening the capacity of institutions in the six Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) to implement domestic reforms. It also aims to bring the countries closer to EoE and EU standards in the fields of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and improve the lives of citizens. The EU’s contribution to the PCF is EUR 30 million. 

EU helps women in Eastern Partnership countries access justice

Published in Justice
Friday, 09 September 2016 17:26
An EU-funded project which aims to remove obstacles for women in the justice system has announced a third regional workshop in Georgia. The ‘Improving Access to Justice” workshop will take place in Tbilisi on 22 September.
The joint EU-Council of Europe project on Improving Women’s Access to Justice in Five Eastern Partnership countries announced the third regional workshop to develop a training manual on Ensuring Access to Justice for Women, which will take place on 22 September in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Representatives of judicial training institutions, national and international experts will draft a training manual to help improve justice equality in five Eastern partnerships countries. The final version will be presented at the regional project conference in Moldova in October.
The EU-funded project is being implemented in 2015-2016 and aims to identify and support the removal of obstacles for women’s equal access to justice, strengthening the capacity of Eastern Partnership countries to design measures to ensure that the justice chain is gender-responsive, including through the training of legal professionals. The project includes the development of five national mapping studies, training and information materials and capacity building of legal professionals.

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