Children’s Ombudsman: Not a Building, But a Team of Experts
A draft law has been developed in Uzbekistan on an ombudsman for the protection of the rights of children and young people. It provides for this institution to operate under the President.
In May 2017, Vice-President of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Renate Winter visited Uzbekistan and gave a long interview to UT about the need to introduce this institution. Then she noted that the introduction of the post of children's ombudsman is one of the recommendations of the UN Committee, although each country itself decides which recommendations to accept and which not: “But we still insist on the importance of establishing the institution of children's ombudsman. Only in addressing this issue there is a problem not so much technical as ethical. After all, the children's ombudsman is not a building and not material equipment, it is a team of specialists who, in addition to legal skills, have experience in the field of juvenile justice. Such a specialist should be able to make contact with the child, find a common language with him.”
And now, after a year, we can say that Uzbekistan is ready to introduce this institution. What is the reason for this? This question was answered by international experts, parliamentarians, experts in this field, who gathered at a roundtable in the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis.
Participants noted that the international experience, including the best practices of children’s ombudsmen, was studied during the development of the draft law. The project focuses on defining the goals, objectives and competencies of this institution, establishing the terms of reference for the protection of the rights of children and young people, and effective forms of interaction with children's and youth organizations. According to experts, the activities of the children's ombudsman will contribute to raising the level of public consciousness in the direction of increasing respect for the child’s personality, his honor and dignity, rights, freedoms and legitimate interests, both by state structures and by parents and persons replacing them.
If we look at the statistics, in the world, the children's ombudsman receives two appeals from minors every hour. They concern not only cases of violation of their rights, but also requests for consulting in a difficult situation. This testifies to the urgency of creating the institution of a children's ombudsman and, of course, fully complies with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Renate Winter: When it comes to a case involving a minor, what is crucial is not to win the case, but to ensure the best result for the child.
It turns out, unfortunately, that the rights of children are most often exposed in the world. This is due to the fact that most of them do not have the right to vote. Children often face serious problems in the judicial system in defending their rights. In this regard, the question was raised at the meeting: if for any reason a child cannot appeal to the children’s ombudsman, can his representative, for example, his parent do it for him? The answer was positive, only in any case the children’s ombudsman will have to meet with the child himself to make sure that the appeal is current. And the same principle is followed in the judicial sphere. The judge must speak with the child without fail, despite the fact that he is represented by a legal representative in court, otherwise it would be illegal.
In countries where there is a children’s ombudsman, telephone numbers of “hot lines” are placed at the entrance to schools, where children can contact him on various issues. Thus, the child has the confidence that there is a person who can protect him.
According to Renate Winter, the children’s ombudsman should be independent, which is important in promoting the rights and interests of children. In addition, it is equally important that the budget of the children’s ombudsman and the ombudsman for human rights be separate, which will serve to ensure its autonomy. An international expert believes that Uzbekistan on the implementation of a children’s ombudsman took a broad age range to protect the rights of children and young people under thirty. This can lead to some difficulties in practice, since the interests and problems of the student and the 25-year-old young man are different. Therefore, specialists need to revise this point. It is also necessary to take into account that the children’s ombudsman has the right to investigate the situation of the violation of the rights of the child, to request the necessary information from law enforcement agencies.
In Uzbekistan, policies on children and young people are based on the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments. They are reflected in the country's Constitution and legislative acts. The right of children to education, health, motherhood and childhood, social protection is ensured. Decent conditions are created for their physical, intellectual and spiritual development.
If we talk about juvenile justice, then in this direction there are two issues that I would like to dwell on. The first one is about children who are in conflict with the law. The second is about those who are in contact with the law – victims or witnesses. In many countries, the law on juvenile justice works, but the question is not whether there is a law or not, as a rule, it has been adopted in many countries, but the major objective is to have it work.
In general, speaking of children’s justice, it should be noted that it is fundamentally different from general justice. There is a mechanism that includes all stages and aspects of working with minors, including the investigation, pre-trial proceedings, the process itself and post-litigation. All of these stages are fundamentally different from those applied to an adult. Therefore, many nations have special prosecutors, lawyers and social service workers who are exclusively involved in protecting the rights of minors. To deal with such matters, they undergo special training. After all, an ordinary judge may be well versed in laws, but unfamiliar with psychology and pedagogy.
We know that during the trial with the participation of an adult, the lawyer and the prosecutor act as competitors; one of them must win this case. When it comes to a case involving a minor, crucial here is not to win the case, but to ensure the best result in the interests of the child.