The Ministry of Justice, with support from UNICEF and the European Union joined efforts to protect children’s rights in the justice system. The first child-friendly facility inside the Palaces of Justice was inaugurated today in Saida to provide a safe, confidential and friendly environment for all children involved in judicial proceedings.
Currently the Palaces of Justice in Lebanon are adult-oriented and do not provide special consideration for the needs of children who become involved in judicial proceedings. As of today, child-friendly facilities are now available in the courthouses of Baabda, Beirut, Saida, Nabatieh, Tripoli and Zahle.
Minister of Justice Judge Henry El-Khoury expressed that “the hearing rooms bears a special importance in establishing an integrated Child-friendly justice system, especially for those who are in contact directly with laws in its various contexts, starting from their first experience until their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Moreover, this system was and still one of the main goals, and one of the most important targets of the Ministry of Justice, based on their vision and beliefs that the children are like a basic and essential building block of any society, and that they have a crucial role in social development”.
Access to child-friendly facilities in the Palaces of Justice is central to prevent and respond to all forms of abuse, exploitation, violence and neglect towards children and would mitigate risks that children involved in judicial proceedings may experience, reduce the psychological distress associated with their involvement in these proceedings, and ensure confidentiality.
Rein Nieland, Head of Cooperation at the European Union Delegation to Lebanon said: “The Inauguration of child friendly facilities at Palaces of Justices across Lebanon reflect not only our commitment in promoting the rights of children – but it also displays our unwavering resolve in standing alongside Lebanon amidst the hardships the country continues to endure. The European Union remains committed to working with the Lebanese Ministry of Justice and local stakeholders in strengthening the country’s judicial system, most notably through much-needed reforms that can guarantee the independence of the judiciary and the pre-eminence of the rule of law
The establishment of these rooms went together with multiple efforts starting 2018 to address the needs of children in contact with the law from different angles including policy reform; system strengthening through the capacity-building of justice organizations and professionals, as well as the creation of child-friendly environments and procedures in the justice system; service provision like case management and psycho-social support; and prevention efforts at the community level.
The establishment of the child friendly rooms was coupled with the development of learning resources and the organization of child-sensitive training for relevant staff in contact with children, namely juvenile judges, social workers, law enforcement officers and lawyers.
“The justice system is key to safeguard the rights of children and these new child friendly spaces are one step towards strengthening the justice systems in favour of a child rights approach to ensure children are protected and supported, and their rights granted in fair proceedings,” said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon. “Vulnerable children rarely have access to child-friendly justice and for the past few years UNICEF has been working with the EU and line ministries to promote a child-friendly response to children who come into contact with the law, and we would like to thank all partners for this positive collaboration, as we continue to work together to protect every child”.
UNICEF will continue to work towards a child justice system that is accessible, adapted to and focused on the needs and the rights of children, and that minimizes the risk of harm inflicted on them during justice proceedings.