In recent years, Ukraine has taken steps to improve its judicial system to make it more impartial, fair, transparent, and accountable to citizens. In 2015, the government signaled its commitment to improving the country’s juvenile justice system with the president’s approval of the National Human Rights Strategy.
“The Ukrainian government, Parliament, and the President pay comprehensive attention to the issue of protecting children’s rights,” explained Ukraine’s Minister of Justice Pavlo Petrenko.
While the government and donors have made significant headway in laying the groundwork for change, the system continues to tend toward severe punishments and limited services for children in conflict with the law. For instance, in 2017, approximately two-thirds of children convicted in the juvenile justice system had committed minor property-related crimes. They could have avoided criminal liability and criminal records if appropriate alternative services had been available for them.
“An investigator, prosecutor, or a judge should have an opportunity to refer a case for mediation and to apply — as often as possible — other non-custodial sentencing options for minors. Additionally, the employees of respective agencies should be given the guidelines and recommendations on how to select cases for mediation and how to create conditions allowing [out-of-court disposal],” emphasized Petrenko.
Also, children in conflict with the law in Ukraine have not always received proper protection of basic rights that are guaranteed by international law. These include the right to be treated differently, right to be heard, and right to effective participation in decision-making processes regarding their life.