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In 2011, I published in an Oxford-based journal a study calling for comprehensive reform of the Palestinian juvenile justice system.[1] The study urged the authorities, while dealing with children in conflict with the law, to adhere to the Convention on the Rights of the Child; to respect the United Nations standards on juvenile justice; to adopt a modern legislation that has the foundations for specialized juvenile courts, prosecution, police, and set up a system for media- tion/restorative justice and variety of alternatives to incarceration while dealing with children. Now in 2016, with the enactment of the Juvenile Protection Law, these recommendations have been realized in law. It is indeed a historical development to adopt such an advanced legislation that not only consists with international standards that have been for long neglected, but might be also comparable with many progressive juvenile laws in the world.

However, other recommended actions in the aforementioned study, which are related to policy, institutions, infrastructure, and the allocation of human and financial resources, are still awaiting materialization.[2] The Juvenile Protection Law still needs executive regulations, ministerial instructions, and orders for enforcement. The Ministry of Social Development needs to restructure itself and appoint adequate qualified staff members to form Child Protection Unit, Social Defense Office, and child protection officers. Child care institutions should be opened. Trained judges, prosecutors, and police officers should be designated to juvenile cases, with full organizational structures, and adequate logistical facilities that enable them to carry out the tremendous tasks assigned to them by the law. Without taking such measures, the impact of the Law in practice and on the future of children would remain limited. And, consequently, Palestine’s commitments under the CRC remain questionable.

With the recent accession of the State of Palestine to the CRC, time has come to undertake a comprehensive modernization process. Such a process is no longer a matter of choice; it is an obligation of the state toward its inhabitants and the international community as a whole. Palestine is obliged to report its reform actions to the UN Committee on Rights of the Child and it will be held accountable in case of nonaction. The juvenile system, which has been long discussed with limited outcomes, lies in the heart of the required reform. The adoption of the Juvenile Protection Law is the binging for reforming the child justice system; it is not the end.

Mutaz M. Qafisheh is Dean, College of Law & Political Science, and Associate Professor of Public International Law, Hebron University, Hebron, Palestine. Dr. Qafisheh holds Ph.D. in International Law from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. He is a Ph.D. Supervisor at University of Exeter School of Law, UK; Member of the International Law Association’s ICC Complementarity Committee, London. He is a former Human Rights Officer at the United Nations in Geneva, Beirut, and Ramallah; Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa of Penal Reform International, Amman; and Legal Advisor to the Palestinian Parliament. He published 6 books and over 30 refereed articles in Oxford, Cambridge, The Hague, London, Oslo and elsewhere. All translations are done by the writer.

  • [1] Mutaz Qafisheh, “Juvenile Justice System in Palestine: Current Situation and Reform Prospects,”25 International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family 365 (2011).
  • [2] Meeting with Attorney General, supra note 169.
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