For nearly two years there has been a fresh wind in Egypt. The Arabian Spring led to the deposition of President Moubarak and to profound changes in society. Egypt has been making progress for several years now in terms of life expectancy and access to schooling for children. In this country, where one third of the population is under 18, Terre des hommes started up a project in June 2012 to promote juvenile justice, whose aim is to carry out the efforts noted to date in Egypt as far as child rights are concerned.
A 24-month project involving all the parties concerned
In 1990, Egypt signed the international convention on the rights of the child. During the past years, it has seen advances at the judicial level. Minors are no longer sentenced to death, and efforts have been towards a guaranteed fair trial and the presumption of innocence. Working in Egypt for the past 30 years, Terre des hommes has now decided to bring its support to the Egyptian government by launching a huge project with the aim of improving their approach to the system of juvenile justice. Spread over two years, from June 1st 2012 to May 31st 2014, it will focus on 4 of the 27 regions of the country: Cairo, Assuit, Sohag and Damietta.
One of the main pitfalls of the current system comes from a lack of coordination between the various parties. Tdh will be including all the ministries connected to juvenile justice, i.e. Justice, the Interior, Social Affairs and, of course, Education. The project also encompasses eleven national and international NGOs. The different phases of the programme will cover various fields such as the development of skills for the legal professionals to use alternatives to deprivation of liberty (lawyers, prosecutors, judges), the establishment of lawyers specialized in child rights, the publication of a guide for awareness heightening of juvenile justice, the setting up of a committee of governance, as well as a monitoring body for young defendants from their questioning up to their being placed in centres.
Terre des hommes will offer psychological support to a team of twenty persons in the two institutions for rehabilitation, to at least 140 girls in the centres, as well as to over 70 members of their families. Two institutions and 22 professionals in justice, including 6 prosecutors and 6 judges, will also be made aware of different approaches to handling cases involving minors. Lastly, the principal beneficiaries will obviously be the young people in conflict with the law, who should be supervised better and supported for the whole time they are in the hands of the law.
Working together with the Egyptian government
The main object of the project is, in collaboration with the ministries concerned, to improve the system of juvenile justice. Tdh hopes that, by the end of the project, Egypt will have moved towards a system that gives priority to the rights and interests of the child in the long term. Similarly to the collaboration it has with the governments of Mauritania, Burundi, Romania, Nicaragua and Peru, Terre des hommes undertakes to pass the torch on to the Egyptian government.