After a week-long world congress on access to justice for children, participants sealed their commitment to non-discrimination and inclusiveness for young people. Justice must adapt each treatment to the child's situation and favour non-custodial measures. Co-organized by the NGO Terre des hommes, the event highlighted several violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which celebrates its 32nd anniversary today.
At the end of the Congress, a joint declaration was signed. Translated into more than 40 languages, the declaration commits judicial and political actors, public institutions and States to work hand in hand with young people to ensure equal, non-discriminatory and inclusive access to justice for all children worldwide. Although the principle of non-discrimination is a fundamental pillar of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, young people are still regularly harmed by judicial systems. "In the Middle East, children can be prosecuted and tried as young as 7 years old. They are imprisoned under the same conditions and in the same facilities as adults," reports Taghreed Jaber, MENA Regional Director of Penal Reform International.
Treatment should be tailored to the child's needs, situation, and health status. Psychosocial support should be provided to help the child and their family cope with the events. Diversion, restorative justice and non-custodial measures should be promoted: rehabilitation and reintegration of young people instead of sentencing can reduce recidivism.
Children in contact with the law are confronted with multiple forms of adversity, which often accumulate, encouraging delinquent behaviour: domestic violence, precariousness, discrimination, exclusion from education. “These adversities and the suffering they cause are not recognized enough. We have to work collaboratively with youth and their families to address these types of situations early and identify solutions to invest in. This ensures full support as we dismantle inequitable systems and redesign them to properly serve our communities," reports Iliana Pujols, member of the Child & Youth Advisory Group that has intervened in different sessions of the Congress.
The event, co-organized by the Swiss child relief organization Terre des hommes, brought together more than 4’800 participants of all ages from nearly 100 different countries.