Children behind bars : a study on children deprived of liberty within the criminal justice system in Kosovo
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Despite an almost universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by all states around the world, the practice of depriving children of their liberty on arbitrary and illegal grounds continues to be widespread on a global level. Too often, the deprivation of liberty takes place under circumstances and on grounds that are not only a gross violation of the right of the child, but in direct contradiction of the most fundamental values of International Human Rights Law. This Study has reviewed the situation of children deprived of liberty within the juvenile justice system in Kosovo, in light of relevant international human rights law. As such, the Study includes a monitoring visit to the only juvenile prison in Kosovo, undertaken in collaboration with the Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims, which is part of the National Preventative Mechanism established in Kosovo. Important findings include the lack of separation between children and adults, which has negative implications in regard to upholding the best interest of the child, as well as an extensive use of disciplinary punishments for reasons which are strictly forbidden in International Law, including the use of solitary confinement. Promoting a juvenile justice system that is restorative in its nature does not only contribute to upholding the rights of the child, but will have a significantly positive impact on the society as a whole, particularly in terms of reducing juvenile delinquency. The capacity of the governmental authorities needs to be enhanced greatly in order to meet the challenges that currently exist. Most importantly, there needs to be a societal change of attitude towards children in conflict with the law. Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe – therefore, an investment in children should be a main priority, particularly in regard to children deprived of liberty, who are among the most vulnerable groups in society.