Procedural Rights of Juveniles Suspected or Accused in the European Union PRO-JUS
PRO-JUS is an ambitious project that aims to ensure that foreign children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings benefit from the procedural guarantees they are entitled to as per three EU directives on the rights of suspected and accused persons in criminal proceedings.
The PRO/JUS project, implemented in 5 different countries (Belgium, France, Hungary, Spain, The Netherlands) will examine the situation of foreign children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings since their extra vulnerability may hamper their enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the three procedural directives.
The project in order to attain these objectives will strive to increase the knowledge-base and capacity of law enforcement and legal practitioners to ensure the rights of foreign children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings are respected
Equally, it will provide tools to legal practitioners in order to contribute to the harmonious implementation of the three procedural directives throughout the EU therefore advancing the access of foreign children to their rights in the course of criminal proceedings.
For the purpose of this project, a foreign child is to be understood as ‘any natural person below 18 years of age who does not hold the citizenship of the country where (s)he is being or was suspected or accused in criminal proceedings’.
By definition, children lack the knowledge, ability and independence to seek justice and demand respect for their rights. This primary vulnerability is further exacerbated in the course of investigations or criminal proceedings by social and administrative conditions such as holding a foreign citizenship. The procedural guarantees that need to be triggered for children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings raise additional challenges for national justice systems when these are of foreign origin.
Based on a thorough research methodology designed during the inception phase a 14-month long data collection and qualitative analysis process will provide a clear picture of the situation of foreign children involved in criminal proceedings.
A desk review carried out by national researchers and complemented with semi-structured interviews with a selected number of law enforcement and legal practitioners involved in cases of children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings will inform the research while foreign children currently involved in criminal proceedings or having been accused or suspected will share their knowledge, views and opinions in order to accurately depict the situation at both national and European level(s). In turn, foreign children themselves will contribute to the development of tools, including a handbook for legal practitioners to ensure an effective access to the rights of foreign children accused or suspected in criminal proceedings throughout the EU.
This opportunity given to children to share their own experiences and opinions at any moment of the criminal procedure will pave the way for a better understanding of all stakeholders on how best to ensure a child-friendly, age and culturally appropriate judicial treatment of foreign children cases and will contribute to fulfilling their rights to express their views about matters that directly affect them.
The information will be collated and analyzed in five national reports which will in turn be compiled into a regional comparative report, assessing noteworthy practices against each other, including in terms of their transferability to other EU member states, informing the development of the above/mentioned handbook.
Moreover, partners at national level will sensitize key stakeholders to secure access to cases as well as to raise awareness of law enforcement and legal practitioners on the infringements of the rights of foreign children. Sensitized professionals will be continuously consulted throughout the overall project implementation process to maximize the depth and impact of the research findings and analysis.
Workshops will be held and E-digests, articles and contributions to national professional reviews and publications will be developed in each partner country by project coordinators to share the findings with the law enforcement professionals and legal practitioners to raise awareness on the positive sides as well as weaknesses of their national practices.
Finally, study visits and exchanges will be organized between legal practitioners during the last semester of the project in those countries where the judicial treatment of foreign children accused or suspected of having committed crimes will have been positively assessed.
Partners: Terre des hommes [Hungary]; Defence for Children International (Belgium and The Netherlands); Rights International Spain (Spain), Hors La Rue (France); Terre des Hommes International Federation (EU Office).
The project is co-funded by the Justice Programme of the European Union