In Kyrgyzstan, courts become child friendly

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Bishkek, 15 December 2016 – In the course of just a few months, 11 courts in Kyrgyzstan have introduced child friendly facilities and procedures for children in contact with the law. The reform builds on UNICEF support.

In March 2016, the Leninskiy district court in Bishkek first introduced a child friendly court model, developed by UNICEF in partnership with national authorities, with UK Government support. The model aims to promote child friendly justice for children in conflict with the law, and child sensitive procedures for children who have witnessed or been victim of crime.

As the model proved a success, Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court ruled that it should be replicated in more courts. Since that ruling, replication has happened as high speed, and ten more courts, including Bishkek city court and district courts in Osh and Issyk-Kul provinces, are now child friendly.

Whereas UNICEF supported the introduction of the child friendly court model, this expansion has been paid for with state funds.

The child friendly court model is part of the Action Plan of the State Programme on Justice for Children for 2014-2018. UNICEF has advocated for the model to be featured in the State Programme, and welcomes the progress made:

‘State authorities have embraced the child friendly model, and they are working to expand it. This is an important step in the implementation of the State Programme – and very good news for the country’s children’, said UNICEF Child Protection Officer Elena Zaichenko.

The State Programme stipulates that 10 per cent of the country’s courts will be child friendly by 2018. With the current 11 courts, Kyrgyzstan is already well ahead of target. In the longer term, all courts will be child friendly.

Child-friendly court facilities, which include courtrooms and waiting rooms, are designed to provide a friendly environment to child victims, witnesses and children in conflict with the law, who are under stress throughout the judicial process. The facilities are equipped with necessary technical equipment, a small library, toys, information posters, as well as legal literature on child protection for psychologists, lawyers, teachers and parents.

“The UK Government is very pleased to have provided support to make the justice system more child friendly in Kyrgyzstan. I would like to thank government stakeholders for their commitment to create the child friendly court facility model, where children receive support going through the legal processes, which is a major step forward for the rights of children in contact with the justice system”, said Governance Adviser and Deputy Head of DFID Central Asia Nic Bowler.

Child friendly procedures include specialization of judges who deal with children’s cases, and specific provisions to protect children in contact with the law. Among the latter are provisions that child victims shall not have to face perpetrators during trial, whereas children in conflict with the law shall have their rights represented by specially trained lawyers and case managers, be kept separate from adults in detention, and not be placed in cells during court hearings.