Workshop: Two guidelines to strengthen the child justice system in the country are in the making. Once finalised, these guidelines will ensure that children in conflict with the law are dealt with in a child-friendly manner.

More than 30 prosecutors and legal advisors of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) discussed the two guidelines in a two-day workshop that concluded on January 12 in Phuentsholing. The Child Friendly Guideline and the Diversion Guideline are the two guidelines the OAG prosecutors brainstormed over for two days.

NGO Save the Children supported the workshop.

The guidelines are important because the OAG also deals with criminal matters concerning children (aged 12 to 18).

While there are considerations, children in conflict with the law are generally treated at the same level as adults. Therefore the need to take into account the best interest of the child was felt and also because it is required by the Child Care and Protection Act of Bhutan 2011.

Senior attorney Namgay Dorji said the workshop was conducted mainly to gather input from prosecutors to finalise the guidelines. “It is also to highlight the child justice system,” he said. “Our next process is to take the comments and finalise the guidelines.”

After the guidelines are finalised, prosecutors will use the guidelines to ensure children in conflict with the law are dealt in a child-friendly manner. The guidelines would also ensure that the prosecution process is streamlined keeping in mind the unique and delicate nature of dealing with children in conflict with the law.

For the Diversion Guidelines, attorney Namgay Dorji explained that  a special provision will be provided. “Diversion could be included before even going to the court,” he said, adding that the persecutor and the child perpetrator would be able to make an agreement.

The agreement would not expose the child in the conflict with the law to the judicial system.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing