Brésil, Sao Luis. Prison pour mineurs. Photo by Odile Meylan © Terre des Hommes Lausanne
Justice for children still remains a sensitive or a “hidden” issue from the public sphere. When the issue is addressed in public debates, the tendency is very much that of considering a “delinquent” child as criminal and an adult first and foremost, and less as a child. Simplistic solutions such as detention are still seen as an automatic “best solution”, applied without duly exploring alternatives. Detention is even applied to undocumented migrant children who have not committed specific criminal offences, but just crossed borders undocumented. Today, we know that the “punitive” approach does not bring neither short nor long-term societal solutions. And generally adds on violations of the rights of the child in conflict with the law.
This is why Terre des Hommes will continue its long experience working both directly with children who committed offences as well as with professional, authorities and justice professionals so that Restorative Juvenile Justice principles are applied.
Restorative Juvenile Justice is about an educational, psycho-social and reintegration approach to justice. It allows avoiding a simplistic and unique punitive justice for children, but a justice that gives responses to the interest of the victims as well as towards the need to rehabilitate the offender. In other words, a justice that rebuilds a pacific relation between victims, the child who committed offences and his/her community or society.
More than half of the children in detention have not been tried and sentenced. Nevertheless detention is still seen as “the best or unique” solution applied when a child has committed a criminal offence. This does not bring long-term solutions and violates the rights of the child.
The 1st World Congress on Restorative Juvenile Justice. In November 2009, Terre des Hommes (Foundation Lausanne) organized the 1st World Congress on Restorative Juvenile Justice in Lima, Peru. 1000 participants from 63 countries, governments, the judiciary, non-governmental organisation, and professional groups working with children agreed on measures and adopted the “Lima Declaration on Restorative Juvenile Justice”, that served as a starting basis for the 2nd World Congress on Juvenile Justice that took place from the 26th to 30th January 2015 in Switzerland.
The second World Congress on Juvenile Justice. It took place in Geneva from 26th to 30th January 2015. The conference gathered more than 900 delegates from over 90 states and from civil society. The World Congress served as a forum for dialogue to encourage stakeholders on the international stage to work together for the improvement of responses to the issue of children in conflict with the law. The World Congress on Juvenile Justice was concluded with the adoption of a Final Declaration promoting the principles of a child-friendly and restorative justice.
Terre des Hommes operates in various countries to contribute to the development of the Restorative Juvenile Justice agenda. Seeking alternatives to child detention, managing rehabilitation centres for children in conflict with the law, providing legal support, exchanging practices among professionals “ in county or across countries – training prosecutors, judges, lawyers or social workers, supporting national governments in reforming laws in accordance with international child rights standards: these are some of the actions undertaken by Terre des Hommes in this area.
To know more on Terre des Hommes work on Juvenile Justice: