Children as Victims and Witnesses: A Question of Law and of Rights
Organised by : International Institute for the Rights of the Child (IDE) Partnership - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) - The International Bureau for Children's Rights (IBCR) - Innocenti Research Center (IRC) - UNICEF
The proceedings of the seminar will be published in spring 2009
Generally speaking, justice, and included specialized Juvenile Justice, has for a long time and almost exclusively focused on the person of the crime's or the deed's perpetrator. It has engendered intervention models and systems designed as Welfare Model (objective: perpetrator care) or Justice Model (objective: retribution of the deed). However the victim, especially the child victim , has been conjured away; and little case has been made of the situation of the child being witness , in particular in criminal cases. The emblematic case id the child victim of sexual exploitation (Trafficking, prostitution, sex tourism…).
The promulgation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and its famous article 12 (right of the child to express his/her opinion) and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (2000), have suddenly shed light on the specific needs of children exposed to justice, out of which an impressing number are victim of all kind of abuse, or summoned to express a statement often determining in producing evidence. And not only Criminal Justice is concerned, but also Civil Justice, or numerous administrative procedures, notably all the protection, family, school or migration procedures, to mention only the most prominent.
Is the notion of best interests of the child taken into account in these particular situations, as required by art. 3 of the Convention, as soon as a decision regarding a child is pronounced? Is there a specific status for young victims in trials? For child witnesses? What witness protection measures are set up to avoid threats, pressure, retaliation? And what about atonement or indemnification of young witnesses? What is really done for rehabilitating children abused, mistreated, sold, prostituted? And how to address the plight of child soldiers, both as victims and (sometimes) witnesses? Of children victim of sexual exploitation, not uncommon?
Such are the questions the IDE Seminar intends to ask. The new international guidelines in the matter provide interesting leads, notably article 8 of the Protocol on the sale of children, articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking In Persons, Especially Women and Children, and the new ECOSOC Guidelines on Justice in Matters involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime. However, numerous questions remain open, and practice has not yet integrated the new international standards. The third Rio World Congress on sexual exploitation of children (November 2008) will draw inspiration from the reflection led in Sion.
IDE International Institute for the Rights of the Child