State institutions need to put more emphasis on the protection of child rights and freedoms by putting them at the core of their activities, said the participants of the two-year regional initiative, ‘Equal Access to Justice for Children in the Western Balkans’, held in Podgorica, Montenegro, at the end of April. The initiative is currently being implemented in Montenegro and Albania.
Montenegro's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, Zoran Pažin, drew attention to the broad reform of the juvenile justice system that has been going on in Montenegro for more than ten years.
‘Over the past decade, in cooperation with the relevant state institutions, the Ministry of Justice has carried out a comprehensive reform of the juvenile justice system, which resulted in Montenegro becoming a role model for others in our region. We would like to express thanks to our partners from UNICEF and the EU Delegation to Montenegro for supporting these efforts,’ Pažin conveyed.
Part of this reform includes significant advances in the approach to how children are treated during criminal proceedings – whether they are victims, witnesses, or if they are in conflict with the law.
Regarding these improvements, Montenegro's Deputy Prime Minister highlighted the introduction of specialized trainings, and accreditations that target judicial professionals working with children, such as judges, prosecutors, lawyers and police officers.
‘The rule of compulsory specialization of professionals dealing with children had been introduced, and the Ministry of Justice, in cooperation with the UNICEF and relevant institutions, developed and accredited specialized training programmes for all professionals dealing with children’, noted Pažin.
According to Pažin, Montenegro will continue to reform the juvenile judicial system in order to ensure equal access to justice for every child, and to improve data recordings that will eventually lead to better planning and implementation of child protection policies in the justice system.
Montenegro's Supreme Court President, Vesna Medenica, Supreme State Prosecutor, Ivica Stankovic, UNICEF's Montenegro's representative, Osama Kogali, and head of the EU delegation to Montenegro, Aivo Orav, also participated in the event.
The implementation of this two-year initiative received technical support from UNICEF, and financial backing from the Norwegian government.