On Monday, PRI’s Middle East and North Africa office celebrated World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse at the Rehabilitation Centre for Juveniles in Amman.
The event was organised in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development and was attended by 28 children detained at the centre, the Director of the Jordanian Juvenile Police, Ministry officials, activists, judges, lawyers and journalists.
PRI’s Regional Director, Taghreed Jaber, presented PRI’s new publication, A review of law and policy to prevent and remedy violence against children in police and pre-trial detention in Jordan, highlighting its recommendations and in particular the urgent need for a comprehensive strategy to address the needs and rights of children in the criminal system.
She also emphasised the importance of expanding the scope of the new juvenile child-friendly police centres to all regions, and expressed her hope that the new draft juvenile law gives police authority to resolve disputes involving children in police centres and within the framework of a restorative justice approach, will be approved by the Jordanian parliament.
Brigadier Mohammad Zaza, Director of the Juvenile Police said, ‘Use of violence in police centres is not systematic, and individual cases of abuse are punished when discovered. The new juvenile police established at the beginning of this year with the help of PRI MENA has received over 300 cases and settled more than 80 per cent of them within its premises before reaching courts’.
Abdullah Shukairat, a human rights lawyer, maintained that juveniles are denied their basic rights during investigations: ‘In our experience, in most cases juvenile cases are investigated or heard without the presence of a lawyer or legal guardian. Several have reported violence and abuse during investigations at police stations’, Shukairat said.
Lawyer, Lubna Dawani, said, ‘Most of these children are victims of domestic violence, poverty and family problems, and are held for minor charges or offences such as petty theft.’ Dawani called for specific action plans with timeframes to ensure juveniles are protected under the judicial system.
Raghda Azzah, Manager of the Amman Rehabilitation Centre for Girls, said that challenges were even bigger for girls: ‘Even if a girl commits the same crime as a boy, it is considered a bigger crime by our society. We notice that families rush to bail out their sons, check on them regularly and visit them, whereas in most cases girls are abandoned by their families.’
Children detained at the center from the age of 12 to 16 participated to the discussion, and asked for more protection and rights during police interrogations.
PRI’s study makes a number of key recommendations, including:
- increasing the minimum age for legal responsibility from seven to 12 years old;
- keeping children away from detention centers and police stations until the court hearing and;
- providing alternatives to detention for children and young people.
The study also points out that under international humanitarian law, Jordan is obliged to ‘quickly and with accuracy’ investigate cases of abuse against children in detention centres. Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Jordan ratified in 1991, stipulates that ‘the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time’.