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HRW Slams Lowering Age of Criminal Responsibility

By lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12 years, ?Georgia has gone against international and European standards,? Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on June 11.

The lower age threshold is due to go into force in July 2008. If convicted, minors would face the same punishment as adults, but would serve their prison terms in separate penitentiary institutions from adults. Such institutions, however, presently do not exist in Georgia.

Human Rights Watch, in a statement, said imprisoning younger children is unlikely to solve the problem of juvenile delinquency in Georgia.

?On the contrary, use of detention could exacerbate the problem, as Georgia currently lacks a juvenile justice system capable of educating, reintegrating, and rehabilitating juvenile offenders.?

?Instead of simply prosecuting and locking up children in conflict with the law, states are supposed to develop alternatives,? Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, said.

?By lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility, Georgia risks placing an even greater number of children in detention, possibly for long periods? This raises further concern, as overcrowding has been documented as a serious problem in Georgia?s existing penitentiary institutions,? Cartner added.

In its General Comment on Children?s Rights in Juvenile Justice in February 2007, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said, ?minimum age of criminal responsibility below the age of 12 years is considered by the Committee not to be internationally acceptable.?

The Committee, which monitors states? compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, said that a higher age threshold ? 14 or 16 years ? is ?commendable.?

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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