Kosovo: Number of children at risk of falling in conflict with the law is increasing

Photography credits: Roxana Todea

Source: The Coalition of NGOs for Child Protection in Kosovo – KOMF 

The Coalition of NGOs for Child Protection in Kosovo – KOMF, launched its analysis titled: “Don’t close the door, I’m just a child!”. The document evaluates the protection of children at risk of falling into conflict with the law and children in conflict with the law without criminal responsibility (under the age of 14).

On this occasion, the KOMF’s President, Blerta Perolli – Shehu, presented the purpose and the findings of the report, stating that there is an increasing trend in the number of children at risk of falling into conflict with the law, and children in conflict with the law without criminal responsibility, meaning under the age of 14.

The findings of this analysis indicate there are legal provisions that enable the treatment and protection of children without criminal responsibility, who have committed criminal offenses, or who are at risk of falling into conflict with the law. However, the current legal framework does not define specific services for such children, except for those generally provided for various categories that are in social need and at the same time doesn’t explicitly assign any institution to work with the prevention of this phenomenon. Individual and family counselling is the main service provided to these children (in both CSW and schools, where there are psychologists).

Practice shows that such services are inadequate and often ineffective in the prevention, protection and reintegration of children who are at risk or in conflict with the law without criminal responsibility. This is because cases are often repeated; they remain open for extensive periods and ultimately move to age of criminal responsibility (14 years), when they start to be treated by the justice and order authorities.

Also, the analysis findings indicate there is a relatively small number of cases referred to the CSW, especially from schools. This means that the community and institutions with the mandate to protect children in the local level are not sufficiently familiar with the legislation on child protection in general; they don’t know the legislation from other areas and often the legislation of the respective field. The situation in schools is far from better. Most schools lack psychologists and professional services.

 Mr. Arsim Bajrami from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology also attended the launch of the report. He supported the recommendations of the KOMF report and called for cooperation in the field of child protection.

“With quality education, especially pre-university education, with inclusion, we have the best chance for the protection of children of this age. Once again I thank KOMF for the inclusion in public policies and as a Ministry of Education, we will continue the partnership with KOMF. These recommendations and this study will enable us to truly build better public services and increase their quality and standard, “said Bajrami.

The Head of UNICEF Office in Kosovo, Mrs. Laila Omar Gad spoke about the importance of working on prevention of the children in conflict with law.

“Global analysis of worldwide trends inform us that the best and most cost-effective way is the prevention of violations and strengthening the preventive measures so that children do not fall in conflict with the law, and reintegration into society of children who have fallen in conflict with the law” said Omar Gad.

The main objective of this analysis is to provide an overview of the situation and the legal framework, gaps and challenges of its implementation in the field of prevention, protection and reintegration of children who are at risk or in conflict with the law without criminal responsibility.

Children interviewed for this report declared they had not participated in a rehabilitation or reintegration program. There are times when they are referred to a psychologist treatment at another institution; one of them was sheltered in a shelter. There are also those who wanted a course or vocational training (in music, acting courses, foreign language), but their request was not fulfilled.