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On child friendly justice within the EU legal framework

Seminar “Child Friendly Justice: Guaranteeing Children’s Rights Within the EU Legal Framework”, was held in Belfast on 7 and 8 March 2013. It was organised by the European Academy of European Law in cooperation with the Law Society of Northern Ireland and with the support of the European Judicial Training Network (EJTN).

Child Protection Center of Zagreb was represented

Director of the Center prof. dr sc. Gordana Buljan Flander, invited lecturer, talked about “Gathering evidence/ statements from children and child-sensitive interview techniques: Appropriateness, setting, duration, child-friendly mechanisms, elements of child psychology”.

The lecture aroused much interest among the participants and many expressed their wish for further cooperation with the Center which was specified as an example of good practice in the field of children’s rights protection. Marija Crnković, Center’s psychologist attended the Seminar.

Harmonizing the respect for children’s rights in EU

The seminar was opened by the Minister of Justice in Northern Ireland, David Ford, Lord Child Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Declan Morgan and the Chief Executive of the Law Society of Northern Ireland, Alan Hunter. They recognised the efforts invested by the organiser and emphasised the importance of the seminar aiming at ensuring children’s rights within the European Union legal framework and at harmonizing the respect for children’s rights in the legal systems of EU member states.

Rebecca O’Donnel, Senior Policy Advisor in Save the Children (EU office) talked about furthering ‘the best interests of the child’ in international and European law and gave an overview on the UN Convention on the rights of the child, European Convention on human rights and other legal instruments

Children’s rights in specific risk situations

Ankie Vandekerckhove, Independent Children’s Rights Advisor with the Council of Europe and The EU, presented the Council of Europe Guidelines on child-friendly justice with the purpose of ensuring children’s rights in judicial proceedings. She talked about the protection of children’s rights in specific risk situations: developmental difficulties, lack of adequate care, seeking asylum, homelessness and Roma children.

Wouter Vandenhole, professor of law at the University of Antwerp held a workshop where participants discussed concrete cases and ways of resolving them within the EU laws.

Civil society and non-government organisations

Benoit van Keirsbilck, Director of the Children Law Service in Bruxelles and President of the non-government organisation Defence for Children – International, talked about communication with children before, during and after judicial proceedings – about appropriate ways of interviewing, best practice in implementing legal procedures where children participate and about the role of the civil society and non-government organisations.

Mieke Schuurman, Advisor and Researcher in the field of children’s rights in Eurochild held a workshop about the application of communication techniques with children, ways of adapting communication to age and interpreting children’s words.

Legal capacity of children for participation in legal proceedings

Sarah Jane,Judge of the Court of Criminal Justice in Dublin and researcher at the Child Law Clinic at University College Cork talked about examining the capacity and ability of children to participate in court proceedings.

Jane Coker, Judge at the Supreme Court of Great Britain talked about the modernisation of the court system with the purpose of developing an approach which is more child-friendly and gave examples of good practice in cooperating with courts, ministers and other participants in these proceedings.

Margaret Tuite, Child Rights Coordinator of the European Commission, presented possibilities of implementing the EU plan in the field of children’s rights. She talked about a series of activities in data gathering, introducing legal and other measures and emphasised that the basis for child-friendly justice should be the Council of Europe Guidelines and cooperation between the government and non-government sectors.