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United Nations: Criminal Justice Measures Proposed, Prevention of Violence Against Children Stressed

(Apr. 29, 2015) The Doha Declaration on Integrating Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice into the Wider United Nations Agenda to Address Social and Economic Challenges and to Promote the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels, and Public Participation (Doha Declaration) was adopted by the Thirteenth U.N. Congress on Crime and Prevention and Criminal Justice by acclamation on April 12, 2015. The Declaration proposes the adoption of a wide range of measures to be taken by U.N. Member States in the criminal justice field. (Press Release, United Nations, Concluding United Nations Crime Congress, Delegates Pledge Action to Promote Justice for All, Underline Link Between Rule of Law, Sustainable Development (Apr. 19, 2015); Draft Doha Declaration, A/CONF.222/L.6 (Mar. 31, 2015), Thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Doha, Apr. 12-19, 2015.)

The Thirteenth U.N. Congress reportedly had “unprecedented participation,” with “more than 4,000 participants from 149 countries … joined by the United Nations Secretary-General and the Presidents of the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council.” (Press Release, supra.)

Issues Addressed in Doha Declaration

Issues deliberated at the Thirteenth Congress and covered in the Doha Declaration are the links between the rule of law and sustainable development; combating crimes against the environment, including wildlife crime; the importance of international cooperation; means of tackling new and emerging crime, e.g., the exploration of “specific measures designed to create a secure and resilient cyberenvironment” and combat cybercrime; adoption of national approaches to public participation in strengthening crime prevention and criminal justice; the death penalty; terrorist groups’ recruitment of foreign fighters; and trafficking in cultural property and fraudulent medicine. (Id.)

The Declaration also includes, under its item 5, an extensive list of proposals in connection with supporting “effective, fair, humane and accountable criminal justice systems and the institutions comprising them” and upholding “human dignity, all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, in particular for those affected by crime and those who may be in contact with the criminal justice system, including vulnerable members of society.” (Draft Doha Declaration, supra.)

Item 5e is on combating crimes of violence against children. It calls for integrating “child- and youth-related issues into our criminal justice reform efforts, recognizing the importance of protecting children from all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse, consistent with the obligations of parties under relevant international instruments,” while “taking into consideration the relevant provisions of the United Nations Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Children in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice … .” (Id.) The Member States should also endeavor

to develop and apply comprehensive child-sensitive justice policies focused on the best interests of the child, consistent with the principle that the deprivation of liberty of children should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, so as to protect children who are in contact with the criminal justice system, as well as children who are in any other situation requiring legal proceedings, particularly in relation to their treatment and social reintegration. (Id.)

Call for Implementation of Model Strategies

Towards the end of the Thirteenth U.N. Congress, on April 18, 2015, U.N. officials urged U.N. member states to implement the organization’s new Model Strategies for the elimination of violence against children. (Dominic Yobbi, UN Rights Experts Urge New Standards for Eliminating Violence Against Children, PAPER CHASE (Apr. 19, 2015); About, 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (Apr. 12-19, 2015).) The standards were adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 18, 2014. (DOHA: At UN Conference, UN Agencies Urge Member States to Act on New Standards for Eliminating Violence Against Children, UN NEWS CENTRE (Apr. 18, 2015); U.N. General Assembly, United Nations Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence Against Children in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, A/C.3/69/L.5 (Sept. 25, 2014) [see Annex to view the standards].)

Valerie Lebaux, Chief of the Justice Section, Division for Operations, of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), dubbed the Model Strategies “an historical achievement and a strong endorsement of the commitment of Member States towards addressing the issue of violence against children” and noted the development by the UNODC of a joint global program with the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) “to tackle head-on the scourge of violence against children.” (DOHA: At UN Conference, UN Agencies Urge Member States to Act on New Standards for Eliminating Violence Against Children, supra.) Lebaux also stressed that interventions on the behalf of children “require the effective incorporation of international standards and norms into national legislation, the establishment of accountable institutions and policies, the training of justice practitioners, and the cooperation between child protection and justice systems.” (Id.)

Mona Rishmawi, Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, taking note of the many children “lost in the world’s prison systems,” pointed out that “a justice policy that places emphasis on incarceration and criminal sanction, in particular as a primary response to child offenders is simply the wrong response,” which is why the Model Strategies are needed. (Id.)