SRSG Santos Pais calls for the strengthening of restorative justice for children in the World Congress on Juvenile Justice in Geneva

Geneva, 28 January 2015 -"Restorative justice represents a paradigm shift in the way we envisage the justice system and its role in the safeguard of children's rights. Guided by the child's dignity and best interests, based on dialogue, negotiation and problem solving, restorative justice moves away from retributive and punitive approaches and focus on reparation and children's reintegration," stressed the SRSG in her statement to the Congress.

The World Congress on Juvenile Justice, co-organized by the Government of Switzerland and Terre des hommes Foundation on 26-30 January in Geneva, gathers about 900 participants from different parts of the world. The main objetives of the congress are to reaffirm and strengthen the implementation of applicable juvenile justice standards across the diversity of juctice systems and to prevent the criminalization of children; create a forum for dialogue to facilitate the exhange of good practices that respect the rights of the child in the implementation of judicial proceedings, including the social reintegration of children in contact with the justice system; and to improve international cooperation and follow-up in the field of juvenile justice and national protection systems.

Recalling the countless children deprived of liberty around the world, very often awaiting trial for long periods of time, the SRSG highlighted the benefits of restorative justice for children: "Restorative justice supports children's access to justice and to participation in proceedings that the child understands, trusts and feel empowered to use; a system that is ready to act and stand on behalf of children's rights, including when children are exposed to violence as victims, witnesses or alledged offenders."

As the SRSG study "Restorative justice for children" acknowledges, restorative processes demonstrate overwhelming positive results for the victim, the offender and the community at large. Young people who participate in restorative programmes show fewer tendencies towards risky and anti-social behavior and significantly lower rates of recidivism; and they are also more likely to return to school and to becoming active and productive members of society. Victims feel treated with respect, more likely to receive an apology and involved in a fair outcome. Moreover, restorative justice helps to reduce social costs and brings a high social return.

SRSG Santos Pais reiterated her support to Governments and other stakeholders in promoting restorative justice models, framed by sound national legislation aligned with international standards, supported by well coordinated institutions and actors, and implemented with adequate resources and well-trained professionals.

"With strong awareness raising and social mobilization initiatives, nations can promote child friendly attitudes and practices among justice profressionals and service providers, and sensitize the general public to the negative effects of punitive approaches and to the wide ranging benefits of restorative justice" added the SRSG.