in Europe

Procedural Rights of Juveniles Suspected or Accused in the European Union

National Research Report / Belgium

Géraldine Mathieu | DCI Belgium / Terre des hommes | 59 pages
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This report has been developed within the framework of “Procedural Rights of Juveniles Suspected or Accused in the EU (PRO-JUS)”, a regional project implemented in 5 EU Member States (Belgium, France, Hungary, Spain and The Netherlands) under the coordination of the Terre des hommes Regional Office for Central and South East Europe based in Hungary in partnership with Defence for Children International (Belgium), Hors La Rue (France), Rights International Spain and Defence for Children International (The Netherlands).

The PRO-JUS project aims to 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 of the European Parliament and of the Council (EU directives 2010/64, 2012/13, 2013/48).

This report covers Belgium and constitutes one of the 5 national reports developed as part of the PRO-JUS project. The report is the result of a research that has combined desk research, analysis and semi-structured interviews with adult stakeholders and children. Developed according to a common research methodology that was employed in all of the 5 project countries, the report presents the research findings and identifies noteworthy practices as well as recommendations. In line with the aims of the research, the report also discusses the factors that affect and hamper the effective enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the 3 EU directives.

Findings and Recommendations

  • Increasing protection for foreign youths calls for the creation of higher standards of protection than those in place for national children, given the particular nature of their needs;
  • To increase the protection of the rights of foreign minors in conflict with the law, various courses of action have emerged as solutions over the course of our research and the interviews we were able to carry out;
  • Adequate training is imperative and must be improved on all levels: police officers, guardians, interpreters, lawyers, magistrates, educators, etc. Police officers who have a high degree of contact with foreign minors should, ideally, undergo intercultural training, providing them with tools to enable them to react better;
  • With regards to the right to interpretation, it would be useful to call upon sworn interpreters only, and preferably those with knowledge of criminal law and training in juvenile issues as well as child psychology and cultural dimensions;
  • A coordination mechanism, particularly for the creation of a methodology as well as a code of ethics, also seems necessary;
  • it is imperative to provide these interpreters with immediate and reasonable remuneration in
    order to increase their availability;
  • Concerning the right to information, the written declaration of the rights is in need of review. Simplified models in layman’s terms suitable for children must be available and adapted to their age. This statement could also be made using videos with subtitles in several languages;
  • Although access to a lawyer appears to function during hearings before the juvenile court judge, the same cannot be said for the police interview. The assistance of a lawyer is only obligatory in the event of deprivation of liberty. This right is not always respected;
  • The funding system for “Salduz” on-call lawyers must be reviewed, and immediate and reasonable remuneration provided, as for interpreters, without which it will also be impossible to mobilise these professionals;
  • Providing fair remuneration for lawyers and improving their training, specifically on the issues of interculturallity, are the sine qua non requirements in order to ensure that young people are able to effectively enjoy the rights enshrined in the European directives.