Prof. Dr. Ton Liefaard. Professor of Children’s Rights. Leiden University. Law School. Netherlands

Prof. Dr. Ton Liefaard. Professor of Children’s Rights. Leiden University. Law School. Netherlands

Prof. Dr. Ton Liefaard. Profesor de los Derechos del Niño. Universidad de Leiden, Facultad de Derecho. Países Bajos

Prof. Dr. Ton Liefaard, as the UNICEF Chair of Children’s Rights of the University of Leiden, Netherlands, could you please clarify what the role and objective of the Chair are? What are the activities related to the children´s rights that the Chair is developing?

The main objective of the chair is to contribute to high level academic research and education in the field of children’s rights. We aim to combine research on the meaning and implementation of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other related international legal instruments, with educational programmes for both students and professionals. In addition, we provide consultancy, advice and other out reach activities for national and international organisations and governments.

According to your expertise on the topic, what are the remaining challenges in Europe since 2008, the year of publication of your research "Deprivation of Liberty of Children in Light of International Human Rights Law and Standards"? Could we talk about an improvement of the current situation? Moreover, as its coordinator, could you please briefly describe us the course "Juvenile Justice within Europe from an international perspective" of the International Juvenile Justice School (IJJS)?

In my opinion the position of children deprived of their liberty in various contexts (criminal justice, child protection, immigration system etc.) has been awarded more attention than before. The issue of violence against these children has resulted in strategies both at the international level as well as the domestic level. Nevertheless, there still are many challenges. In my book of 2008, I provided a list of concrete steps that should be taken by legislators, policy makers and other competent authorities to improve and safeguard the position of children deprived of their liberty. I think we need more focus on the practical steps that result in the actual improvement of the position of children deprived of their liberty. Of course, we must avoid as much as we can that children are locked up in the first place. We do not need more standard-setting activities at the international level, but we need better laws, regulations and actual policies at the national level. In addition, we need more effective remedies for the children involved. Make the children more visible and their voices heard.

One of the crucial things is adequate education and on-going training of the professionals in and around closed institutions. Through this one can raise awareness and create skills to implement the rules and regulations. I think the online training course developed by the IJJO provides an excellent starting point. Hopefully, it can serve as a catalyst for more and more specific in depth training materials in the field of juvenile justice, including deprivation of liberty of children.

According to your experience what kind of knowledge and skills will be acquired by participants in the  ‘Juvenile justice within Europe from an International perspective’ course of the International Juvenile Justice School (IJJS)’? 

This course aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the relevant international (UN) and European legal standards with regards to juvenile justice. It wants to be informative and thought provoking, and it's a first online initiative in the field of juvenile justice. It serves as a starting point for a more focused deepening of knowledge about specific elements of juvenile justice. Above all, I hope participants enjoy the course, a prerequisite for gaining more knowledge and understanding.

On the third Module you deal with the topic of restorative justice. So far, this subject is not mentioned as such along the CRC, yet it can be implied from the article 40(3)(b). Does this peculiarity lead to any practical consequences in the jurisprudence application of restorative justice, bearing in mind that this topic is contained in several other International Standards?

Since it could be implied, it provides a legal connection with a legally binding instrument. This hardens the legal value of it. Yet, the acceptability and sustainability needs to be determined in legal practice. It is very interesting, though, that restorative justice has already been embraced by many countries and has found its way to European legal standards, including at the EU level.

What would you like to say to potential participants of IJJO course? What is making the course attractive and unique in your eyes? 

 This course offers participants a comprehensive overview of the most relevant juvenile justice issues and addresses the implications of relevant international standards as well as various examples of European juvenile justice practices. Participants are invited to study state of the art research and other materials and challenged to test their knowledge and skills regarding the different juvenile justice issues addressed in the course. This is the first comprehensive juvenile justice course that is fully available online.