During a press conference in Sofia, NGOs demanded immediate reform in Bulgarian juvenile justice system. Last year, more than 2,000 children have been placed in closed institutions – reformatories, detention facilities, police departments, homes for temporary placement of minors and adolescents, social-pedagogical and correctional boarding schools.
The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Social Activities and Practices Institute and the National Network for Children shed light on numerous signals about the following issues in closed institutions for children:
- High rates of violence and abuse of children in the aforementioned facilities of detention and deprivation of liberty.
- Placement in facilities with unacceptable material conditions (no or inadequate access to ventilation, hygiene, lighting, heating and hot water, sanitary facilities, etc.).
- Lack of access to education or poor quality of the offered education.
- Lack of access to adequate medical care.
All this constitutes a serious violation of international human rights law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to which deprivation of liberty should only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period.
Bulgaria has been criticized repeatedly by various international and national organizations for its inadequate justice system for children. This occurred several times in 2015 by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.
The three organizations called for prioritizing juvenile justice reform and demanded: the repeal of the outdated Juvenile Delinquency Act and the adoption of a new special law for juvenile justice in line with international standards; the creation of specialized juvenile courts; the development of new services and alternative measures to detention; further specialization of professionals working with children; adequate material conditions in institutions; and ensuring access to quality education and healthcare in all places where children are detained.
Sign the petition
The three organizations sent an open letter to the responsible authorities with a request for comprehensive reform of the juvenile justice system.
To support the request for legislative change, citizens can sign the online petition that will be submitted to the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria.