UNICEF and the General Prosecutor's Office signed a Memorandum of Understanding

23.03.2015 15:22


Photo: Hearing of a child in Specialized child-friendly hearing facility   
©UNICEF Bulgaria/2015/ Noorani                                                                                                                               

The aim of the cooperation is to protect more effectively the rights of children in the country as well as to guarantee children’s access to justice 

23 March 2015 United Nations Children’s Fund and the General Prosecutor’s Office in Bulgaria signed a Memorandum of Understanding that aims at achieving cooperation in the field of child rights protection and guaranteeing children’s access to justice. This includes the opportunity for children to receive just, timely and effective protection by the law when their rights are being violated. The agreement encompasses all children who are part of any legal proceedings – among them are those who have witnessed a crime or have themselves been victims of violence; children in conflict with the law; children participating in administrative and civil proceedings. 

“We fully support UNICEF’s aim to work for a just and timely protection of child rights and children’s guaranteed access to justice. This, of course, should be in line with the law. In this case, the civil control will bring many positive results’’, said Mr. Sotir Tsatsarov, the General Prosecutor of the Republic of Bulgaria. 

Keeping in mind that children who are part of the legal procedures are specifically vulnerable, UNICEF and the General Prosecutor’s Office will cooperate in the development and strengthening of the professional capacity of prosecutors who mainly work with children witnesses or victims of violence and crime, as well as children who are in conflict with the law. 

“The judicial system has been created for adults. It reflects the attitudes of the society that children do not have all the legal rights that adults do. And this perception needs to change”, said Mrs. Tanja Radocaj, Representative of UNICEF to Bulgaria. 

UNICEF and the General Prosecutor’s Office share a mutual understanding that the vulnerable situation of children – especially those who are victims and witnesses of violence – requires adapted and child-friendly procedures that are to be implemented and carried out by trained professionals. This is in itself the main argument to initiate the first training of this kind. 

About the training:
The first phase of the training, in line with the agreement between UNICEF and the General Prosecutor’s Office is going to take place from March 23rd to March 27th. This means that 20 prosecutors from all over the country are going to receive training on the topic of “Juvenile justice and justice for children – a training program for professionals in the area of implementing and guaranteeing the rights of children who are participating in legal procedures”. On their part, the trained prosecutors are going to train two more groups of prosecutors (from 27th March to 2nd April). The main phase of the training will be led by Mrs. Ingrid van Welzenis from the Netherlands, who has many years of international experience in the system of justice for children. 

Why is it essential for professionals in the system of justice for children (such as prosecutors) to understand child development?    
Every child is unique, but the stages in child development give us a general idea of what skills children usually acquire at a certain age. Those who are engaged in justice for children should know that for a child who is in a new environment and/or is upset - if he/she has witnessed or has been victim of violence, for example - it is possible to “regress” back to an earlier stage of his/her development. This means that it is possible for the child not be in a position to understand certain information or to give non-specific answers to questions that he/she would otherwise respond better to, were the circumstances not so threatening. Thus, it is important that the professionals engaged in justice for children (such as prosecutors) assess the capabilities and the level of understanding of every child and adapt their manner of communication with the child to the specific situation. The information presented and the questions asked should be in compliance with the child’s capabilities so that they can ensure reliable testimony and evidence. 

About violence against children:   
UNICEF supports all institutions that aim to stop violence against children as well as to ensure adequate support and care for the victims. UNICEF’s main impetus is to contribute to the lasting reduction of the number of cases of violence against children; to develop public intolerance towards abuse and exploitation; to improve the capacity of the responsible institutions to take adequate measures when it comes to those who have suffered abuse, as well as appropriate reactions towards the perpetrators. In order to achieve this, UNICEF supports capacity building – the acquiring of knowledge and the improvement of skills in the child protection system. This includes helping prosecutors to recognize violence, coordinated and child-friendly reaction towards the victims and the respective measure towards the abusers.

About UNICEF:  
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

For more information:   
Ivaylo Spasov, Communication Consultant (Copywriter), UNICEF Bulgaria    
tel.: 0888 40 63 83, E-mail: ispasov@unicef.org

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