EU, UNICEF: Fewer children behind bars, greater reforms needed

28.06.2013 09:39

Report on children and justice in CEE/CIS

BRUSSELS, 27 June 2013 — Children in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia have seen steady and positive reforms but still face huge barriers in accessing justice, according to a new European Union-UNICEF report launched today at a conference on juvenile justice.

The report, Juvenile Justice in the CEE/CIS region: Progress, Challenges, Obstacles and Opportunities, notes that across the region, fewer children are being locked up. It also points to ill-treatment, sometimes amounting to torture, in all surveyed countries. Solitary confinement is still allowed in nearly all of them.

Legislation in many of these countries is moving closer to international standards. Importantly, changes in legislation on sentencing and other reforms have also led to a substantial decline in the number of children languishing behind bars.

 “Quote to be inserted” said Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, in his opening speech at the conference.

“The more children in conflict with the law are shut out of society, the harder it is for them to heal,” said Yoka Brandt, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “Progress has been made but justice is often blind to children’s needs. Justice systems must adjust to meet the rights of all children.”

The high-level conference brought together some 120 justice ministers, ombudspersons and participants from civil society, international organizations and the European Commission. The gathering held thematic debates on issues highlighted in the report – which was based on a three-year project funded by the EC using interviews with children, in addition to official complaints and assessments. The countries included in the project were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan and Ukraine.

The project strengthens legislative reforms and capacity building to set up alternatives to detention. Research on torture and ill-treatment – child-reported beatings, rape and humiliation while in detention - was also conducted by UNICEF, ombudspersons and civil society to ensure the commitment of authorities to combat these practices. 

The EU and UNICEF welcomed moves by governments in the region, including in countries due to join the EU, to widen the scope of reforms towards systematically protecting the rights of all children in the justice process. Broader reforms will include ending the culture of impunity by authorities and giving access to justice for all children who are victims or witnesses to crimes.

The conference ends on Friday with governments highlighting policy priorities for the road ahead.

For more information, please contact:

Peter Stano, Spokesperson of Commissioner Füle, European Commission, +32 2 295 7484,

Lely Djuhari, UNICEF Regional Office for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States,, +41 792044482


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