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Juvenile Justice and the Convention on The Rights of the Child

The Convention On The Rights Of The Child
The United Nations Convention on the rights of the child is a human rights treaty that helps to define children's political, economic, social, health and cultural rights. [i]

Nations that ratify this convention are bound by international law. Governments of member countries that have ratified the convention are required to report on their progress towards the implementation of the convention and the status of rights of the child in their country to and appear before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the child periodically. Their findings and documented views and concerns of the Committee are available on the website of the committee.

The convention entered into force on 2nd September 1990, after it had been ratified by the number of nations required. At present 196 countries are party to it, excluding the United States of America. On 25th May 2000 two optional protocols had been adopted the 1st Optional Protocol restricts children's involvement in military conflicts[ii], while the 2nd Optional Protocol prohibits children's sales, child prostitution and child pornography[iii]. More than 170 states ratified both protocols. The 3rd optional protocol relating to communication of grievances was introduced in December 2011 and opened for signature on 28th February 2012. It came into effect on 14th April 2014.[iv]

The relevance of juveniles in the convention of the rights of the child is as follows [v
  • Article 1 of the convention describes a child as:
    A child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.
  • Article 3 of the convention deals with the best interest of the child.
  • Article 6 of the convention says that the member states must recognise that every child has a right to life.
  • Article 37(a) of the convention emphasises the prohibition of cruel and inhumane punishment for juveniles and also expressly prohibits the death penalty and life imprisonment for juveniles.
  • Article 37 (b) of the convention explains that arrest, detention, and imprisonment shall be considered as a measure of last resort.
  • Article 37(c) of the convention says that children confined must be treated with humanity.
  • Article 37(d) of the convention shows the significance of the right to legal assistance and to challenge their imprisonment before the Court of Law.
  • Article 40 of the convention calls for measures dealing with children outside the Court of Law and general legal safeguards.
  • Article 40(1) emphasises on children accused must be treated with dignity.

Position of Juveniles in Other International Instruments
  • The UN Standard Minimum Rules for Administration of Juvenile Justice (Beijing Rules), 1985:
    General Assembly Resolution 40/33 of 29 November 1985.
    The Beijing rules establish minimum conditions acknowledged on a global scale for handling children who are in conflict with the law. Throughout the Beijing rules, the objective of juvenile justice is retained. The Beijing rules provide us with specific measures documenting different phases of juvenile justice. The rules have six parts and it emphasises the rights of the juvenile (article 7), specialization within the police (article 12), competent authority to adjudicate (article 14), represented by legal advisors, parents, and guardians (article 15), need for professionalism and training (Article 22), and Provision of needed assistance (article 24). [vi]
     
  • The UN Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile delinquency (Riyadh Guidelines), 1990:
    General Assembly Resolution 45/112 of 14 December 1990.
    The Riyadh guidelines reinforce the significance of the role of juvenile delinquency in preventing crime.[vii]
     
  • The UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their liberty (The Havana rules), 1990:
    General Assembly Resolution 45/113 of 14 December 1990.
    The Havana Rules state that juveniles will benefit from programs intended to help them function in society, family life, schooling or post-release jobs. The competent authorities will have to support the juveniles. [viii]
     
  • The UN Guidelines for action on Children in the Criminal Justice System (The Vienna guidelines), 1997:
    General Assembly Resolution 45/112 of 14 December 1990.
    The Vienna guideline discusses the children in the criminal justice system who are in the context of offenders, victims, and witnesses. By the guidelines, the state interventions are focused on Non-discrimination, the best interest of the child, and the rights of the child in the aspect of life, survival and growth.[ix]

Juvenile Death Penalty
We recognize as a society that children under the age of 18, cannot and do not behave like adults. The execution of juveniles is perceived to be fundamentally inhumane, archaic and in direct contradiction with universal principles of justice. The use of the death penalty against individuals who were younger than 18 at the time of the crime has been prohibited under international human rights law. Whether the age of 18 is too young to assume full adult responsibility for a heinous crime? Some argued that 21 years would be the ideal age, not only because of the rights and responsibilities bestowed by society at that age.

Countries such as the People's Republic of China, Iran, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Sudan, Yemen, The Democratic Republic of the Congo and The United States of America have reported cases involving the death penalty for juveniles.[x]

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the U.S. Constitution also prohibits individuals to be sentenced to death for crimes committed while they were under 18 years Roper v. Simons.[xi]

According to a report in the U.K.'s leading newspaper Independent, at least 12 child offenders have been executed by Iran since the beginning of 2018, despite the international uproar. In Iran, the death penalty can be extended to children as soon as they are deemed adults which are for boys it is 15 years and for girls, it is 9 years.[xii]

Imposing blatantly unfair penalty laws against juveniles must be abolished. Especially in Iran although the amendments made to the Islamic Penal Code in 2013 repealed capital punishments for juveniles found guilty of violating drug-related offences. Article 91 of the code also requires the judge to assess the mental capacity of the juvenile offender before issuing a death sentence and also to replace the death penalty with alternative punishment based on the offender's mental maturity. [xiii]

There are ways out there to stop juveniles from committing these heinous crimes and in particular to prevent them from ending up on death row. As per the report of Death Penalty Information Centre, in 2013, 72 juveniles are living on death row at this moment. [xiv]

The need for significant transformations in the judiciary of the countries imposing the death penalty on juveniles is desperately needed not just to save the lives of the juveniles and also to eradicate this inhuman practice.

Recommending Factors That Strengthen This Convention
  • The convention on the rights of the child requires nations to ensure that no child is forced to testify or acknowledge crime, and subjected to abuse or inhumane treatment or punishment.
  • The administration of juvenile justice must aim at a child-friendly approach and work for the best interest of the juveniles. Juvenile justice should uphold the dignity of every juvenile who makes contact with the law.
  • The police have the first contact with the juveniles. Hence, the police force must be highly comprised of persons having special knowledge and expertise to work with juveniles.
  • UN Guidelines and standards on juvenile justice signify a transition towards the juveniles. They have all been established as a point of reference for those who engaged in the administration of the juvenile justice system in the world along with the juveniles.
  • It is better to establish a separate unit or appoint skilled employees who will focus on the issues involving juveniles.
The accountability for the transformation resides primarily in the nation's hand although the society and public at large can actively participate in influencing the nation to make reforms.

End-Notes:
  1. The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (1989 November 20) Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx. Visited on (02/03/2020)
  2. The United Nations Treaty Collection (2000 May 25) Optional Protocol to the Convention on the rights of the child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Retrieved from https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-11-b&chapter=4&lang=en. Visited on (02/03/2020).
  3. The United Nations Treaty Collection. (2000 May 25) Optional Protocol to the Convention on the rights of the child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Retrieved from https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-11-c&chapter=4&lang=en. Visited on (02/03/2020)
  4. The United Nations Treaty Collection. (2011 December 19) Optional Protocol to the Convention on the rights of the child on a communications procedure. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20120825214748/http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-11-d&chapter=4&lang=en. Visited on (02.03.2020)
  5. The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (1989 November 20) Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx. Visited on (02/03/2020)
  6. The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. (1985 November 29). The UN Standard Minimum Rules for Administration of Juvenile Justice (Beijing Rules) General Assembly Resolution 40/33. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/ProfessionalInterest/beijingrules.pdf. Visited on (03/03/2020)
  7. The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. (1990 December 1990). The UN Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile delinquency (Riyadh Guidelines) General Assembly Resolution 45/112. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/PreventionOfJuvenileDelinquency.aspx. Visited on (03/03/2020)
  8. The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. (1990 December 14).The UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their liberty ( The Havana rules) General Assembly Resolution 45/113. Retrieved from https://www.unodc.org/pdf/criminal_justice/United_Nations_Rules_for_the_Protection_of_Juveniles_Deprived_of_their_Liberty.pdf . Visited on (03/03.2020).
  9. The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. (1990 December 14). The UN Guidelines for action on Children in the Criminal Justice System (The Vienna guidelines) General Assembly Resolution 45/112. https://www.unicef.org/policyanalysis/files/Juvenile_justice_16052011_final.pdf. Visited on (03/03/2020)
  10. Anonymous. (n.d).Stop Killings Kids: Why it's time to end the indecent practice of the juvenile death penalty. ACLU. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/other/stop-killing-kids-why-its-time-end-indecent-practice-juvenile-death-penalty.Visited on (04/03/2020)
  11. Roper v. Simmons 543 U.S. 551 (2005).
  12. Wood, Vincent. (2019, October 24th ) Iran executed seven children last year, says UN as 90 remain on death row. Independent. Retrieved from (www.independent.co.uk).
  13. Islamic Penal Code of Iran,1991. (n.d) Retrieved from
    https://www.refworld.org/docid/518a19404.html. Visited on (04/03/2020).
  14. Death Row. (n.d).Death Penalty Information Centre. Retrieved from https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/death-row/overview. Visited on (04/03/2020)

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