1. Current situation
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) of November 20, 1989 and in particular, its articles 3, 12, 13, 22, 37 and 40, as well as many other international and European instruments state the necessity that children in legal procedures be assisted by skilled professionals. On a European level, the Council regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility provides that the hearing of the child plays an important role and that it shall be ensured that the child is given the opportunity to be heard during the proceedings unless this appears inappropriate having regard to his or her age or degree of maturity.
The Guidelines of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on child-friendly justice, adopted on November 17, 2010 by the Committee of Ministers, makes it a priority to train these professionals. More recently, on November 19th 2011, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure. This protocol has been in force since May 28th, 2012. This protocol is a major step for the rights of the child: if a child believes their fundamental rights were violated, they can file a complaint to the Committee. The introduction of the individual complaint for children was much expected but is submitted to strict conditions, such as the obligation that the complaint is written, or that it should be founded.
Regarding the international and European legislation, children are more and more called to be implied in judicial proceedings they are involved in. But in a lot of Member States, despite some of them having implemented new laws to address the issue, the rights of the child remain theoretical whereas it must be real and efficient rights. This efficiency should be even more insured that children are vulnerable persons.
2. Needs that the project aims to address
In all aspects of assistance of children for the protection and efficiency of their rights, the full commitment of different professionals is required. Lawyers are the most directly concerned. Yet, regarding the specificity of children (regarding their vulnerability and their own applicable legislation), the legal professionals must be given the opportunity to acquire a solid and specific legal training, in various areas regarding childhood (psychology, health, audition techniques).
If in some countries such training is incomplete and patchy, in others it is nonexistent. Training European lawyers is indispensable to ensure the effective protection of children’s rights during court proceedings. But such protection can’t go without the necessity of permanent contact between these lawyers. Indeed, because more and more children are travelling within Europe, children’s lawyers should be able to be in contact with their national counterparts, who are trained in the children’s country of origin. This, in order to ensure the most accurate and effective defense and assistance possible in the country where the situation is born. The establishment of such contacts is not easy, explaining why a network of lawyers should be put in place.
In the children’s interests, the network should be a discussion and exchange forum for lawyers, allowing them to debate at European level on the implementation of the legislative framework and their role in the defense of children.
The main objective of this project, which is coordinated by the Paris Bar, is to train 180 lawyers from 6 different countries (Spain, Greece, Poland, Ireland, Cyprus and France) on national law and EU legislation related to the rights of the child, while enriching them with the experience from other Member States through the participation of international speakers in the seminars to be held at national level. There will be 6 national seminars where international speakers will participate and explain how this topic is addressed in their Member State, with the aim of passing on good practices.
Another project objective is to promote networking between lawyers participating in the national seminars. This networking will give the project a dimension which is both national (between the national participants in the seminars) and cross-border (between participants and speakers).
Finally, this project will also contribute towards the EU’s proposed objective of enabling half of the legal practitioners in the European Union to participate in European judicial training activities by 2020, and will put into practice the relevant recommendations of the “Study on the state of play of lawyers training in EU Law”.
4. Target group
The project targets directly those lawyers who will participate in the 6 seminars and those who will access the seminar material that will be available online (creation of a website). Indirectly, the project will target and benefit children in general who require the help of a lawyer in criminal, administrative and civil proceedings.