Press release

Open Society Justice Initiative Holds Workshop on Juvenile Justice in Kazakhstan

December 20, 2004
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ASTANA, Kazakhstan—The protection of children's rights in Kazakhstan's criminal justice system came under scrutiny at an international meeting in the capital, Astana, today. The workshop was the first of a projected series on juvenile justice in pretrial criminal proceedings supported by the Open Society Justice Initiative and its Kazakhstan-based partners.

Senior governmental officials attended the meeting, including police investigators, prosecutors, judges, and lawyers dealing with youths and children. A number of local nongovernmental organizations were also present.

Since March 2003, the Justice Initiative and the Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan have together assisted police, investigators, prosecutors, judges, lawyers, and social workers in applying international standards, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, in their daily interaction with juveniles.

Working in two pilot districts of the city and region of Almaty, the project is developing replicable mechanisms for defense of the rights of juvenile suspects and defendants between the ages of 14 and 18. The project has the support of the Kazakh Ministry of the Interior, the General Prosecutor's Office, the Supreme Court, and the Ministry of Justice, as well as civil society groups.

The protection of the rights of juveniles in Kazakhstan has long been recognized as problematic. Despite legal provisions recognizing their special needs, in practice there is little or no differentiation between juveniles and adults during arrest, detention, or imprisonment.

Today's workshop focused on pretrial proceedings and the rights of juvenile suspects during arrest and interrogation. Speakers noted that all actors in the criminal justice system can take basic steps to reduce the conviction, detention, and punishment of juvenile defendants.

Martin Schönteich of the Justice Initiative told the meeting that Kazakhstan was bound by its 1994 ratification of the CRC "to develop legislation to promote the best interests of children in the administration of justice."

A series of workshops addressing different aspects of juvenile justice reform in Kazakhstan will continue in 2005. The series is co-organized by the Justice Initiative, the Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the organization's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.


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