YOUTH, CRIME AND HUMAN RIGHTS

AuthorDieter Burssens, Lode Walgrave
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1016/S1521-6136(07)09003-3
Pages73-91
Publication Date10 Oct 2007
YOUTH, CRIME AND
HUMAN RIGHTS
Dieter Burssens and Lode Walgrave
1. INTRODUCTION
Within the United Nations system for the promotion and protection of
human rights, the Committee on the Rights of the Child is especially
responsible for the design and the follow up of human rights for children,
children’s and youth rights, and for the social response to youth crime. This
Committee is charged with the implementation and the observation of the
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which was adopted
unanimously in 1989 by the United Nations General Assembly. It took 10
years of difficult debates to create the CRC as a separate tool to address the
peculiarities in children with regard to human rights. But once accepted, the
CRC enjoyed a huge international support. Currently, in fact, only the USA
and Somalia are the two only countries that have not yet ratified the
Convention.
In this chapter, we will discuss some basic provisions of the Convention
on the Rights of the Child as they relate to delinquency committed by young
people, who are to be understood as persons under the age of 18, and to
juvenile justice in general. At the same time, we will also formulate some
critical comments in relation to these provisions and to children’s rights in
general.
Crime and Human Rights
Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Volume 9, 73–91
Copyright r2007 by Elsevier Ltd.
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 1521-6136/doi:10.1016/S1521-6136(07)09003-3
73
2. THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE
CHILD AND OTHER UN GUIDELINES AND RULES
ON JUVENILE JUSTICE
The emergence of the CRC is to be understood in the light of some macro-
sociological developments, especially the shift in the vision on children
and juveniles during the 20th century. Originally, at the beginning of
the century, children were seen as ‘‘not yet human beings’’, a social category
of ‘‘future builders’’, objects of law, charging adults with duties towards
them. But the image changed gradually into seeing children as ‘‘fully-fledged
human beings’’. The child is no longer considered as an object of law,
but rather as a subject of law, being a full bearer of human rights and
competent (Verhellen, 1993). The CRC clearly expresses this new vision on
children and positions them in a more active role than as an object of
protection by adults only. The CRC proclaims a children’s right to
participation, including a degree of self determination (Art. 12). Children’s
own opinion is validated, and their own visions, prospects and interests are
to be respected. Moreover, the CRC is steered by three fundamental
objectives, i.c., (1) non discrimination (Art. 2), (2) the child’s best interest
as the fundamental reason for all decisions about them (Art. 3), and (3)
the right to survive and to develop in a context adapted to children’s needs
(Art. 6).
The CRC is not a Declaration, as a moral code, but a Convention,
including a legally enforceable status. Under certain conditions, the
Convention can have a direct impact. All citizens can claim certain
dispositions before their national courts and some of these dispositions even
have priority over national law. International control over the implementa-
tion is executed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which
examines among others the national reports. All signing countries are
obliged to provide a report every four years.
Two articles in the CRC (Art. 37 and 40) deal directly with the social and
judicial response to youthful offending. Besides the Convention, other UN
statements concern the reaction to youth crime more extensively. In 1985
already, the so-called ‘‘Beijing Rules’’ (Beijing) issued Standard Minimum
Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice. Later, in 1990, the ‘‘Riyadh
Guidelines’’ (Riyadh) or Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile
Delinquency and the Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of
their Liberty were adopted. Moreover, the Days of General Discussion held
by the CRC in 1995 focussed on the Administration of Juvenile Justice.
DIETER BURSSENS AND LODE WALGRAVE74

To continue reading

Request your trial