An agreement to protect the rights of young offenders has been signed by the Jordanian authorities, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the NGO Penal Reform International (PRI).
The document, endorsed in the Jordanian capital, Amman on Thursday, calls for legal amendments focusing on the reform, rehabilitation and reintegration of children aged between 12 and 18 who have been in conflict with the law. This involves diverting them away from reform centres and into community services while establishing judicial and police units specialising in children’s issues.
“We are trying to introduce an international approach where you hold an offender accountable for what they have done but divert them away from institutions and try and introduce reconciliation techniques between victims and offenders,” protection officer for UNICEF, Maha Homsi, told IRIN from the capital, Amman.
The project will be implemented between 2005-2007 in cooperation with the National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR), the Ministry of Social Development (MoSD), the country’s family protection department, the judiciary council, UNICEF and PRI.
“If we achieve the objective of the project, which is the amendment of legislation and capacity building of agencies, it will be a great breakthrough,” she added.
The number of young offenders in Jordan is not large and the majority of offences are petty, such as burglaries or quarrels and disputes, Homsi said. She explained that some 60 percent of the youngsters were of school age and had committed crimes mainly because of ignorance of the law and therefore should not be harshly treated.
In 2003 there were 5,878 male and 248 female young offenders, according to government statistics. Of those, 180 boys and all of the girls were in need of protection, as they had either run away from home or had not been taken care of by their parents.
“This project is really important because a new concept will be put in our legislation. Up until now when a child commits a crime he/she is sentenced and sent to an institution,” a lawyer at the NCHR, Christine Faddoul told IRIN. A child can be detained in a centre for burglary in Jordan.
“Integration is the most important thing. By putting them inside we gain nothing,” she added.
NCHR will deal with increasing the capacity and upgrading procedures within the juvenile justice system.
“We will start training social workers and the police among others by the end of June using local and international experts. There are centres for juvenile offenders in the country but there is a need for better rehabilitation,” Homsi said.
“Detention should come as a last resort and for the shortest period possible,” she added. “There is harsh treatment in the centres and they are not the best places for them.”
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions