Ramallah, December 14, 2016—Defense for Children International - Palestine launched its capacity-building initiative on December 9 in Al-Bireh, outside Ramallah, with a training workshop on implementing the rehabilitation-focused Juvenile Protection Law.
The two-day workshop centered around the theme, "Justice is child care, protection, and rehabilitation, not child detention." Juvenile court judges, lawyers, police, counselors, and representatives from rights groups in attendance underwent training in mediation and detention alternatives. The National Committee for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) partnered with DCIP in leading the program, which was sponsored by Ibrahim Shaer, chairman of NCJJ and minister of social affairs. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the German Representative Office in Palestine also supported the event.
"This program of workshops will empower capacity-building among all the key actors in the Palestinian juvenile justice system," said Khaled Quzmar, the general director of DCIP. "Having moved beyond outdated laws that do not serve children’s best interests, our task now is to ensure the new law is implemented effectively."
Four years after NCJJ, including DCIP, completed drafting the Juvenile Protection Law, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed it into effect on February 4, 2016. The law unified and updated the existing juvenile justice system, bringing it in line with international child rights standards.
In keeping with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Juvenile Protection Law recognizes all those under the age of 18 as children in need of unique protections. Accordingly, it adopts a rehabilitative rather than a punitive framework, with arrest as a last resort. The law also creates juvenile courts and specialized units to work with children in conflict with the law among police, prosecutors, and judges.
The shared initiative sets out a five-year plan to establish a common structure, standardize procedures, and train juvenile justice parties in the best interests of the child. In addition to the two-day training, DCIP and NCJJ will be piloting on-the-ground training sessions to ensure the program’s success.
During his address, Judge Imad Miswadeh, representing the Supreme Judicial Council, stressed the importance of real and meaningful partnerships between all juvenile justice parties for the law to be effective. Assistant Attorney General, Ashraf Erekat, underscored the need for strategic training and coordination in the context of the government’s limited budget.
"The biggest questions now is how long will it take to apply the Juvenile [Protection] Law, especially because there is neither infrastructure nor tools for implementation," Khaled Quzmar said to workshop participants. "This is the next challenge that the Palestinian government must overcome."