Morocco World News
Rabat, July 6, 2013
The (Moroccan) National Human Rights Council (CNDH) published a report on “Children in Protection Centers: Childhood at Risk – For an Integrated Policy to Protect Children’s Rights.”
In fulfillment of its mandate, the Council analyzed the situation of children institutionalized in child protection centers by virtue of a court order. It assessed the institutionalization procedures to see to what extent they comply with the standards of the international Convention on the Rights of Children.
In this regard, 17 child protection centers were visited. The team held interviews and met with public stakeholders (at the local and central levels), associations, children and families. The gender dimension was taking into consideration throughout the entire process.
The report notes that institutionalization and deprivation of liberty are often the first judicial procedures taken. It sheds light on numerous constraints and dysfunctions that make the institutionalization process non-compliant with the norms of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the guidelines of juvenile justice (infrastructure, supervision, guidance, living conditions, security, safety, children’s participation in the trail, complaints procedures…)
These shortcomings include the following:
• institutionalized children are not classified on the basis of age or the reason behind their institutionalization (children in difficult situations or in conflict with the law), which hinders providing appropriate care services to each category and jeopardizes safety of children under 12 and children with disabilities;
• Proximity of centers to children’s places of residence is not taken into account;
• Significant differences among the centers in terms of the rate of occupancy or the number of children in each center;
• Reception and care services do not comply with the required international standards (standards related to buildings, equipments, supervision quality and children’s safety and protection);
• The centers are not monitored regularly by the relevant authority;
• The living conditions (residence, hygiene and nutrition) do not guarantee children’s basic rights;
• The right to health, physical integrity, protection against all forms of violence and exploitation, appropriate rehabilitation and participation are not guaranteed. The same goes for the rights of children to be heard, to be protected and to have legal assistance during the entire judicial process.
The report also notes that institutionalized children are exposed to corporal punishment, verbal abuse and humiliation. They are denied their rights to resort to complaint mechanisms, provided for in international standards. No follow-up is ensured for children in their natural environment after being deinstitutionalized. This actually undermines their right to social rehabilitation. Besides, there is no family policy to provide psycho-social, socio-economic and parenting support and there are no alternatives to institutionalization (difficult process to access to Kafala, the lack of host families’ regulations) are considered as serious issues.
The report includes a number of general recommendations addressed to the government. Some urgent recommendations are specifically addressed to the Ministry of Justice and Liberties and the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
The report calls for the adoption of a national comprehensive policy to protect children that will take the implementation of the general principles and provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child into account. The authority that will coordinate the implementation of and follow-up to this policy and the responsibilities and roles of key ministries and departments concerned should be identified, the report says.
In terms of training and capacity building, the report recommends the adoption of a (basic and continuous) training strategy for the different stakeholders working with children in contact with the law (police, gendarmerie officers, judges, public prosecutors, investigating judges, educating teams, directors, social workers/family investigators and lawyers).
According to the report, institutionalization and deprivation of liberty must be considered only as a last resort. Custody in a natural environment is far better for children in difficult situation and guarantees the rights of children to be heard and to be informed and to be legally assisted.
The report also recommends:
• A comprehensive review of the legal and administrative framework of child protection centers in a way to ensure the best interests of the child;
• Setting up norms regulating child reception structures, in compliance with the norms in force in the area of children’s rights;
• Setting up mechanisms to monitor and supervise these institutions.
In order to protect children against all forms of violence, ill-treatment, abuse and exploitation, it is necessary to adopt and activate independent and easily accessible complaint mechanisms for children with no discrimination, to ensure the protection of their best interests.
Given the worrying situation of a large number of institutionalized children, the report urges the bodies concerned to evaluate the current situation of the institutionalized children, as soon as possible, in order to initiate a review of the procedures taken by virtue of court order. This will allow children to benefit from the guarantees provided for in law and help evaluate children’s health conditions, and accordingly provide appropriate medical care to them. A national symposium on child protection centers should be held, the report concludes. All the parties concerned with the protection of children’s rights should take part in this symposium to discuss and adopt a general, comprehensive and integrated policy to guarantee children’ best interests and ensure the protection of their rights.