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HRC Discussion Focuses Attention on Awareness of Important Issue of Access to Justice for Children
March 13, 2014

Intervention on the full-day meeting on the Rights of the Child

“The Rights of the Child: Access to Justice for Children”

Delivered by Deputy Assistant Secretary Paula Schriefer

25th Session of Human Rights Council
March 13, 2014

The United States thanks the panelists for contributing to today’s discussion and for raising awareness of this important issue.

The OHCHR report on access to justice for children usefully presents information both about barriers to such access as well as best practices that can help inform our continued efforts to protect rights of the child.

Since its launch in 2010, the United States’ Access to Justice Initiative has worked to help the justice system efficiently deliver fair outcomes for all.  We are committed to augmenting our work by enhancing the quality of the defense representation for indigent juveniles in order to address allegations of violations within the juvenile justice system.  For example, the U.S. Justice Department investigated allegations of due process and equal protection violations in Tennessee’s juvenile courts and conditions of confinement in its juvenile detention center.  As a result, the Justice Department entered into a groundbreaking agreement this past year with Tennessee that required a County Public Defender’s Office to establish a dedicated juvenile defender unit independent of the court.  This unit will have the structure and resources necessary to provide independent, ethical, and strong representation for children. In support of the investigation, the Justice Department consulted with various stakeholders, including child welfare organizations, advocacy groups, and researchers, to share best practices on how to safeguard the rights of juveniles.

Last fall, the Justice Department also launched an initiative to reduce the over-representation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system.  This program will improve access to counsel and the quality of representation for youth.  The program will also ensure that youth with unique needs, such as LGBT youth and those with disabilities, substance abuse behaviors, and language access needs, are fully included.

The United States appreciates the continued collaboration of the Human Rights Council to further protect the rights of children. We applaud the work being done in a number of States to ensure justice systems are child-sensitive.

Our concerns remain for the many children that still face serious challenges to accessing justice, however, especially in countries where progress on this issue has been slow.