UN Convention on the Rights of the Child not incorporated into Russian law
The introduction of a system of juvenile justice into Russian law was the main issue discussed at a round table on the subject of ‘The Child and Justice’ held on the initiative inter alios of the French Embassy in Russia, supported by UNICEF, and the presidential children’s rights ombudsman, Alex Golovan.
Mr Golovan said that France had a wealth of experience in upholding children’s rights via juvenile institutions. In Russia juvenile courts are being introduced in different regions and in June the Association of Juvenile Judges had been set up. Nevertheless, he observed, the majority of Russian children were not able to obtain professional legal assistance and their access to justice was limited. At the same time, children who had attained fourteen years had the legal right to make an application to the court either independently or through their legal representatives. Yelena Mizulina, the chair of the Duma committee on matters concerning families, women and children, said that although Russia had adopted the Convention it had not yet been incorporated in Russian law. So there was no provision in place requiring a different approach by the courts to juveniles as compared with adults. The result was that juveniles were exposed to a disturbing process that traumatised them. Juvenile justice, however, took into account the peculiar features of the child’s psyche and was predicated on a special approach to the child within the framework of the judicial process. Ms Mizulina added that there was another principle of the convention that had not been observed in Russia, namely, that children’s rights should take priority in relation to other rights. As an example, she mentioned social patronat (a form of fostering)which had been denied any legal basis for development following enactment of the Law on Guardianship although regional practice had shown this to be highly effective.
In the course of the round table some opposed the incorporation of juvenile justice in Russian law; in particular the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. They saw it as detrimental to the traditional family structure and as downgrading the role of parents in bringing up their children. Patriarch Kirill spoke against courts for teenagers. Mr Golovan responded to this point by stating that there was already provision for fourteen year old Russians to institute court proceedings, including against their parents. Furthermore, he emphasised, no-one was stopping the Church from participating in discussions about the establishment of a juvenile justice system. Ms Mizunila said that her committee planned to arrange an ongoing round table at the St Tikhon Orthodox University of the Humanities on the subject of courts dedicated to minors where those who wished to could contribute concrete proposals. ’We will discuss an actual bill and opponents of juvenile justice will be able to satisfy themselves as to the degree of risk involved’, she stressed.