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CLEAR-Rights: Enhancing legal assistance for children

2021-06-16

For many children in Europe, criminal justice remains unjust. Children in conflict with the law are entitled to quality legal aid but might struggle to access it. Through the CLEAR-Rights project, Terre des hommes (Tdh) and its partners aim to ensure that free, specialized legal aid is accessible to every child involved in criminal proceedings.  

As a result of the project:

  • 220 legal practitioners attending face-to-face meetings 
  • Three clearinghouses and one intersectoral network for child-friendly legal assistance  
  • Ten advocacy events, three of which are led by children

Despite improvements, children in conflict with the law still experience violations of their procedural rights and barriers to access the legal aid to which they are entitled. CLEAR-Rights aims to remove these barriers by: 

  • building the capacity of practitioners from legal aid and pro bono systems, to enable them to provide child-friendly legal assistance; 
  • strengthening the collaboration between key child justice stakeholders;   
  • developing a child-led assessment tool;   
  • raising awareness on the right to legal assistance for children in criminal proceedings.

The project focuses on Hungary, Romania, Belgium, France and The Netherlands, and will ensure a wide dissimination of its tools and materials across Europe. 

Capacity building for child-friendly legal assistance   

The project will review practices and gaps in legal aid systems for children in conflict with the law. Based on review results and identified needs, we will develop and adapt guidelines for legal practitioners on child-friendly legal assistance, in five European languages. A methodology and quality standards for providing child-friendly legal assistance will be made available for legal aid and pro bono lawyers. At the same time, we will offer trainings and webinars for professionals and students. 

Encouraging collaboration among child-justice experts 

"When pro bono lawyers are willing to fill gaps left by the system in some countries, they might lack ways to connect with children in need of legal aid. We want to provide a bridge", says Marcos de Barros, Project Coordinator at Tdh. To facilitate knowledge sharing and to connect legal aid systems, pro-bono lawyers and children, CLEAR-Rights aims to create a database for child-justice lawyers and to set up networks and clearinghouses for child justice legal assistance, in collaboration with legal aid departments, law firms, bar associations and civil society. 

Quality assessment tools: by children, for children 

Through the Child Advisory Boards in France, Hungary and Romania, CLEAR-Rights will engage children in the design and development of project activities and outputs to ensure full accountability and responding to children's needs, preferences and priorities. 

At the same time, to ensure that the legal assistance received by children from legal aid and pro bono lawyers meets their needs, a digital quality assessment tool will be developed and piloted.   

Advocacy events on children’s procedural rights 

Throughout the duration of the project, the partners will organise regional and national advocacy events, including child-led advocacy events to raise awareness on the rights of all children accused or suspected of a crime to access quality, child-friendly legal assistance and legal aid and to promote the realization of their procedural rights.

"We want to ensure that children's procedural rights are upheld, now and in the future," concludes Marcos de Barros. 

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Partners: The CLEAR-Rights project is led by Terre des hommes Regional Hub in Hungary in partnership with:

Project duration: 24 months (December 2020 – December 2022)  

Donor: This project is co-funded by the European Union's Justice Programme (2014-2020).

Total budget: 854 744.89 EUR 

For more information, please contact: Marcos de Barros marcos.debarros@tdh.ch and Zsuzsanna Vég zsuzsanna.veg@tdh.ch