HRC: Juvenile Legal Rights and Funding

By Sun Jia Ying, The New York Times

Countries debate on education programmes and the feasibility of proposed solutions

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The Human Rights Council

The main topic on the Human Rights Council’s agenda for 1st June was the issue of mistreatment in the courtroom towards juveniles, and the issue of funding the solutions proposed. It had seemed that funding would be the easiest and least contentious issue to tackle, but as debate unfolded, it seemed that reality was the opposite.

The delegate of Turkey, being the first speaker of the day, wrapped up yesterday’s debate by giving a quick summary of the main issues that were discussed – firstly, on punitive measures, and secondly, on the mistreatment of youths during arrests. The council had reached compromises and come up with comprehensive solutions the day before, allowing them to move into new issues to tackle.

In terms of punitive measures, the council had come to a consensus that there must be a balance between rehabilitation and incarceration, and the degree of this balance would be dependent on each country.

On the topic of mistreatment of youths during arrests, the council had also come to a consensus regarding implementing measures to ensure that police officers are held accountable for their actions. Installing body cameras was an early solution proposed by the council, and the footage would be reviewed by the public and the media to ensure that there was no abuse of power going on in the legal system.

The council seemed to be appeased with the solutions, but a problem quickly cropped up – where would the funding for them come from? Some possibilities were raised by the delegate of Turkey in response to these questions. Was the council going to rely solely on the International Monetary Fund (IMF)? What about the World Bank? Or will developed countries fund the solutions proposed? It seemed that this issue had already come up in an earlier working paper detailing possible solutions to improve the juvenile justice system submitted the day before.

However, it was obvious that the chairs did not believe that this was a major issue, and delegates had seemed to agree at that point in time that they should talk about other topics instead.  Council quickly moved on to talking about another issue – namely, focusing on ensuring that juveniles’ physical and mental health would be accounted for.

Thus, the delegates of Australia, USA, Senegal, Iran and the UK drafted a working paper to tackle educating youths on their legal rights during and after an arrest, and where they are able to seek help and report mistreatments. Following a push for removing traditional restraints (for example, handcuffs, shackles, etc)  on juveniles, there was further encouragement for legal reform that would allow youth to provide written testimonies instead of verbal testimonies in the situation where the youth’s mental health would otherwise be compromised.

The delegate of Ethiopia summarised the issue well when he stated that these children should be considered “innocent until proven guilty – and should not be treated as criminals. It is unnecessarily disruptive to put [the children] in shackles”.

Yet, if one had a sharp eye, they would have spotted the two extremely comprehensive clauses at the bottom of the working paper that still targeted an issue that was thought to have been resolved. Funding was being brought back into debate again, and the previous concerns regarding funding proposed solutions resurfaced, with no clear solution being offered by any delegate.

With funding being a clear thorn in the council’s side, and many more issues and feasibility problems cropping up, the Human Rights Council still has a long way to go before they fully solve the issue of mistreatment of juveniles in the legal system.

 

 

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