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Round Table Descussion on Alternatives to Ditention and diversion System.

With the support of the international consultant, DR. Hatem Kotrane (law professor in France), a round table discussion was conducted with relevant stakeholders from the judiciary council, ministry of justices, and lawyer syndicates to discuss the opportunities and challenges in KRI for applying such systems.

By Diana Kako in Duhok | 13th Sep, 2022 | English

Childhood and adolescence are sensitive periods of life, being in contact with the law and entering the justice system could be a traumatic experience for them if they were not provided with high-quality services. For that Harikar NGO in their project to enhance justice for children services and system in KRI, which is implemented in Partnership with UNICEF; is conducting multiple activities for stakeholders and services providers who are in direct contact with children. Despite the progress over recent years in Duhok and Erbil with assistance from UNICEF and others, much work remains undone with various stakeholders and institutions to ensure that the juvenile justice system functions to uphold the rights and best interests of children in contact with the law.

Referring to article number 37 of the child rights convention, child detention must be the last option and for the shortest period possible. For that Harikar with the support of UNICEF is seeking to adopt alternatives to detentions and diversion systems assuring that the children are not deprived of their liberty and that their rights are not violated in the justice system.

The diversion system is a method used for reformation of the children's misbehavior taking into consideration the social, psychological, and environmental factors which contributed to child delinquency. As the age of criminal responsibility in KRI is 11 years old which is considered low compared to the international standards (14 years old), children may not be fully aware of the consequences of their actions. Thus building children's resilience, strengthening their capacity, and engaging them in social and vocational activities will contribute to building their personality. And all this is at risk when a child is put into detention.

With the support of the international consultant, DR. Hatem Kotrane (law professor in France), a round table discussion was conducted with relevant stakeholders from the judiciary council, ministry of justices, and lawyer syndicates to discuss the opportunities and challenges in KRI for applying such systems.

Throughout the discussions, participants highlighted multiple supportive articles of Juvenile welfare care act 76 Y 1983, which urge the need of finding an alternative to detentions, yet the shortage is in the implementation of the law. Challenges were highly related to the lack of financial support for courts and reformatory centers, as the government has no allocated budget for child protection. The law number of specialized judges was also a challenge, as the same judge who sees children case will also see adult cases which in total reaches 200 cases per day. The small building of reformatory centers, overcrowding, lack of special PSS programs, and poor reintegration activities was also highlighted as shortages of providing qualitative services to children in reformatory centers.

Dr. Hatem shared the recommendations of the United Nations regarding the rights of children in contact with the law, as the United Nations was concerned about the reports which indicate poor services provided for children, the possibility of using violence during investigations, the duration of detention for investigations, unavailability of the medical report (physical and mental) from the very moment of entering the justice system.

The following were the recommendations of the participants:

  • The presence of a lawyer to represent the child should be mandatory for the time of initial investigations.
  • Child caregivers must be engaged in the process if it's in the best interest of the child.
  • The police officers, investigators, and judges must be dedicated only to children's cases and be separated from adult cases.
  • The duration of detention for investigation must be set and should not be more than 24-48 hours.
  • The judge has more authority for finding alternative ways to detention assuring that detention is the last option and for the shortest duration possible.
  • Adopting a diversion system with a legal framework.
  • Assuring availability of medical records with the starting of initial investigations in the police stations.