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Friday 23rd of October 2020

IJJO Conference

La Justicia Juvenil en Europa: un Marco para la Integración

Conclusions of the Second International Conference organised by the IJJO

The Second International Conference: 'Juvenile Justice in Europe: a framework for integration', organized by the International Juvenile Justice Observatory, a Belgian Public Utility Foundation, took place in Brussels on the 24th and 25th October 2006.

The IJJO, as a Foundation of international scope, hopes to develop a juvenile justice without borders, at all times inspired by the rules and principles established by the United Nations General Assembly, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and more specifically, the Beijing Rules (1985) and the Riyadh Guidelines (1990).

Starting the second half of the 1980's, these United Nations rules changed the way juvenile justice systems considered minors: not only as a simple object worthy of protection by the State and its institutions, but as a subject with rights that need to be recognized and guaranteed. Therefore the minor's responsibility when they have committed a crime, needs to be proven by a procedure offering all guarantees, steered by professional judges and prosecutors. A wide range of sanctions or varied, flexible measures have been foreseen, which pay more attention to the personal, family and social circumstances of the minor, than to the seriousness of the facts.

The conference coincided with a time of reforms in juvenile justice legislations in some European countries, changes that correspond to an evolution of the social perception of the different phenomena in juvenile delinquency.

During these two days, more than 300 professionals from 35 countries met with the aim of sharing knowledge on the situation of minors in conflict with the law in Europe and in the world; as well as experiences and good practices in intervention in the juvenile justice field.

A group of university experts, scientific researchers and members of international and national NGOs and administrations analysed the most recent trends on juvenile delinquency and the principal tools for its prevention; and studied the different categories of sanctions and measures applied, as well as the new approaches in the juvenile justice systems.

As a result of the work done during these two days, we have come to some basic conclusions that can be used to better understand the current situation of juvenile justice in Europe and to contribute to the improvement of the work of the professionals in this sector so they can be even more successful in their intervention with minors and young people in conflict with the law, whose reintegration is the main aim of our work. The most important conclusions were as follows:

  • The best way to reduce juvenile delinquency is to prevent it through the introduction of a better educational system, the promotion of juvenile employment, integration of minorities, providing alternatives for spending free time, the fight against drug and alcohol abuse, etc.
  • The experience has showed us that the sanctions or measures applied for minor delinquents are more efficient when used within their own community and connected to social work within this community, which minimizes social stigmatization as well.
  • There is a need for in-depth study and investigation into the phenomenon of juvenile delinquency and the efficiency of the mechanisms used to limit it and to intervene with minor delinquents.
  • It is also necessary to improve the evaluation instruments of the programmes used to work with these minors. Even when the efficiency of a programme is proven, it can not be used as a general model, but it has to be adapted to the idiosyncrasy of each country or region.
  • The professionals who work with minors do not only have to receive the best training and specialisation possible, but they also have to deal with the minors in a "human" way and have the right values in order to try to transmit them to the minors that they treat: respect, empathy, honesty, humour, sincerity, etc. These are the minimum requirements for someone who is going to be a role model for these minors. In order to achieve this, it is important to make a good selection, to provide continuous training and permanent supervision of the work of these professionals.
  • Organized civil society can and must participate in these intervention programmes with minor delinquents. Therefore it is very useful that NGOs can also carry out and manage - together with state, regional and local administrations - the sanctions and measures that are being applied, both custodial and non-custodial.
  • There has to be, in any case, a permanent supervision of the execution of measures or sanctions by all the controlling authorities established in the respective legislations (judges, prosecutors, administrations, inspection services) The "ombudsman" has to have an outstanding role in each society, as the defender of human rights and, more specifically, the rights of minors. Furthermore, during the Conference, there was even a proposal to create the figure of the "European Ombudsman for Minors" who will keep watch over the rights of all minors in the European Union Member States.
  • In some of the European countries some changes are currently being made in the legislation for minors, changes of different nature. For example, some governments (like Switzerland and Belgium) are now introducing the responsibility model based on the UN rules mentioned above, inspired also on the restorative justice model. Others that had already adopted this responsibility model are toughening their legislation and moving closer to the adult justice system, to the detriment of the principles based on the international rules mentioned above.
  • It would be advisable for the European Union to tackle the matter of juvenile justice, and even to achieve the approval of European minimum rules or principles which would allow the systems of the Member States to be unified, at the same time serving to slow down the regressive trends. Therefore it will be, without a doubt, necessary to have a prior knowledge of the situation of juvenile delinquency in those countries. The European Commission has recently taken a step forward in this direction with the approval, last August, of a project to obtain reliable and comparable statistics on the volume of juvenile delinquency in each Member State.
  • Even though the statistics on juvenile delinquency in a lot of countries are at a standstill or even decreasing progressively (which is often only a consequence of the decrease of juvenile population), from a social point of view, a great increase is perceived in terms of the number and the violence of the crimes committed by minors. The social media contribute a great deal to this situation by criminalizing simple antisocial behaviours of youngsters or exaggerating cases which, even though they are serious, are exceptional. This generates an unjustified social alarm in which citizens demand tougher and more forceful responses against juvenile delinquents, a demand which is heeded by politicians and governments.

Faced with this excluding message of security, fear and social alarm, we trust that this meeting offers a message of hope for all youngsters in conflict with the law, because they are, above all, youngsters with possibilities and a future in freedom. Justice and education, combined together, are the starting point from which our juvenile offenders, thanks to the help of many other social agents, can become free citizens with full rights.

Download the conclusions


Fundación Diagrama Unión Europea - Fondo Social Europeo

  • International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO). Belgian Public Utility Foundation

    All rights reserved

  • Head Office: Rue Armand Campenhout, nº 72 bte 10. 1050. Brussels. Belgium

    Phone: 00 32 262 988 90. Fax: 00 32 262 988 99. oijj@oijj.org

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