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GOVERNMENTAL ADMINISTRATION OF JUVENILE JUSTICE

Ministry of Social Development

The Palestinian juvenile justice is primarily assigned to the “Ministry of Social Development.”[1] This implies that the issue of child delinquency is a matter of social concern rather than an issue of security and punishment.[2] There are, however, some limited responsibilities on juvenile aspects to the Ministry of

Justice and Ministry of Interior, as part of their general mandate.[3] While the former is in charge of the technical drafting of legislation, the latter directs the police and manages detention centers and prisons. Besides, the High Judicial Council plays a role with regard to juveniles as it is responsible for courts. The focus in this section is on the Ministry of Social Development and its policies to reform the juvenile justice system.[4]

The mandate of the Ministry of Social Development over juveniles has been explicitly provided in the 2016 Juvenile Protection Law.[5] The Minister is vested with the power to, inter alia, enact instructions and orders to execute the Law.[6] Even when certain powers are given to the police, prosecutors, or courts, the Ministry would retain a central role.[7] This role can be concluded from the Ministry’s responsibility over child protection officers, as its staff, and its management and supervision of juvenile social rehabilitation or medical treatment institutions, as we will see shortly.

The Ministry runs the affairs of juvenile justice through its Child Protection Unit,[8] which acts as the central administration for child protection officers and manages the juvenile institutions. It coordinates with the police, prosecution, courts and prisons, relevant ministries, and civil society organizations.[9] The Unit took its roots from the Jordanian juvenile system that was applicable in the West Bank between 1948 until 1967. While the Unit has been significantly developed in Jordan after the enactment of the Juvenile Justice Law in 1968,[10] it remained intact under Israeli occupation. Due to the lack of resources and technical capacity, the Unit has been unable to improve its services when Palestinians took control over juvenile justice in 1994. With the adoption of the 2016 Law, it is hoped that the Unit will be strengthened, logistically and by appointing more qualified staff, to carry out its functions.

The Ministry has additional role to play. As mentioned previously, the Law gave the Ministry to establish a “Social Defense Department” attached to each juvenile court that incorporates sociopsychological specialists along with child protection offices in order to assist the court in its findings with regard to children brought before it.[11]

We will elaborate on the role of child protection officers and social care institutions as the most significant features of the Ministry’s mandate in relation to juvenile justice.

  • [1] The name of the Ministry was previously “Ministry of Social Affairs.” It was changed on 15March 2016 into “Ministry of Social Development” by Council of Ministers’ Decision No. 94 of2016. By this change, the name of the Ministry in Palestine has become similar to that of Jordan.However, the Juvenile Protection Law of 2016 still uses the older name as it was drafted a few yearsago. We prefer to use the new name (“Ministry of Social Development”) in this study.
  • [2] This is unlike the case in certain countries in the Middle East, such as Egypt, where the juvenilejustice system is scattered among four ministries: Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, Ministryof Social Solidarity, and Ministry of Population and Family. See Terre des hommes-Lausanne,Assessment of Juvenile Justice System in Egypt, August 2010, pp. 34-37. See also Bishri Shorbaji,“Juvenile Justice in Egypt and its Reform Prospects,” in Buomidra & Assaf, supra note 8, pp. 126141; Hani Hilal, “Juvenile Justice Situation in Egypt,” in ibid., pp. 142-159.
  • [3] Jessie Clarey, “Juvenile Crime: Its Causes and Treatment,” 12 Police Journal 286 (1939); VictorSzyrynski, “Sociatric Psychotherapy in Juvenile Delinquency,” 6 Canadian Journal of Corrections74 (1964); P. Stephenson, “Myths about Juvenile Delinquency,” 15 Canadian Journal of Criminologyand Corrections 83 (1973); T. Campbell, “Punishment in Juvenile Justice,” 4 British Journal of Lawand Society 77 (1977).
  • [4] Although under the Ministry of Social Development’s mandate, the juvenile care institutionsand the role of child protection officers are addressed in two separate sections later for the sake ofclarity.
  • [5] A similar role was given to the Ministry in the 1954 Jordanian Juvenile Law, e.g., Articles 23-25.
  • [6] Article 66. In the same article, the power to enact regulations was given to the Council ofMinisters, as indicated earlier. Even when the Council adopts regulations, normally the Ministryprepares the technical aspects of the draft.
  • [7] Article 17.
  • [8] Article 64.
  • [9] Ministry of Social Affairs, Procedures of the Social Defense Department (Ramallah 2010).
  • [10] The present writer worked in 2009 and 2010 with the Jordanian Social Defense Department ofthe Ministry of Social Affairs through his former position as the Regional Director of PenalReform International for the Middle East and North Africa based in Amman, Jordan.
  • [11] Article 28.
 
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