To “Tales from the Coffee Shop by Patroclos”
As a regular visitor of the Coffee Shop, I was gratified to read in last Sunday’s issue your totally justified concerns about the recent Supreme Court decision by which a man who had been at first instance sentenced to nine years imprisonment for sexually abusing his 11 year old son was acquitted for reasons that do not take into account children’s rights. The issue of treatment of children and safeguarding of their rights through the judicial system is a matter that should be the concern of all social actors and raising public awareness to that effect is essential.
In judicial interventions relating to children (be it victims, witnesses or perpetrators), as indeed in all actions of any public or private institutions whatsoever, “the best interest of the child” should be a primary consideration. This is an obligation of all states-party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which in our legal system is part of the internal law with superior force to any national law. This not only requires a deep understanding of how international treaties operate but also changing of attitudes and cultures. You would agree with me that the process is not an easy one; it requires continued and concerted efforts of numerous actors.
This issue has been among my priorities since I assumed my duties as Commissioner for Children’s Rights. It is for this reason that “Children and the Judicial System” was set as one of my priorities for the year 2008. My aim was to achieve cooperation with the Judiciary in an effort to promote the implementation of the provisions of the CRC in judicial decisions so as to ensure respect of children’s rights. When the first of this kind of unfortunate judicial decisions was issued in April 2008 (concerning a man who was convicted of raping his step-daughter and the Supreme Court reduced his sentence to five years), I made a Public Intervention stating my views on the matter and emphasising the obligations of Cyprus arising from the CRC, in particular the obligation of the state to ensure that in all decisions relating to and/or affecting children the best interest of the child should be a primary consideration. This Intervention was promoted by the media and was posted on the Office webpage (www.child.org.cy.) Within this framework, in May 2008 I assumed the coordination of all stakeholders (governmental and non-governmental) so that they would undertake initiatives for the introduction of programmes to combat and prevent the abuse of children. Numerous actions on the matter have taken place since, including my interventions at Parliamentary level. My efforts towards this direction will continue in 2009 and for as long as it takes to achieve my aim which is to change attitudes, cultures and practices.
The promotion and protection of the whole framework of children’s rights is my basic mission. The fact that a person like you, who is undoubtedly socially sensitive, was not aware of my views and efforts concerning this very important issue, is a signal for me that much more is required if my actions are to have the desired result.
Commissioner for the
Protection of Children’s Rights
Tails from the Coffee Shop by Patroclos.doc
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