The steering committee of a Tunisian juvenile justice improvement project visits programmes on alternatives to detention in Belgium and the Netherlands

2016 Dec 23

From the 13th of November until the 18th of November 2016, a ministerial delegation from Tunisia visited Belgium and the Netherlands in order to learn about good practices of their juvenile justice system, particularly regarding alternatives to detention and probation programmes. The International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO) and UNICEF Tunisia organized this study visit. It was carried out within the framework of a project to improve the juvenile justice system in Tunisia, Projet d'appui à l'amélioration du système de justice juvénile (PARJ). The delegation is an acting steering committee on this project, which is financed by the European Union.

The first part of the study visit occurred in Brussels. The delegation had the opportunity to discover various institutions. First, they had a meeting with Bernard de Vos, Ombudsperson for children’s rights in Wallonia Brussels. They also met with the cabinet of the Ministry to Youth Aid, Houses of Justice and Promotion of Brussels for the Wallonia-Brussels federation. In addition, the delegation had a meeting with Belgian judges of the juvenile court.

In addition, the delegation met the director and a criminologist from the association S.T.A.R. (Services, Work and Remedial Action), as well as the directors of the associations L´Amarrage and Magic. These associations provide alternatives to detention services. They seek to integrate the young people in conflict with the law into society, and in their personal environment, via, for instance, educational programmes. They also focus on restoring the family dynamic.

Furthermore, a visit was organized with members of the association La Pommeraie, which supervises and monitors young people in conflict with the law, and with a member of the European Council for Juvenile Justice (ECJJ), Professor Els Dumortier, who specialises in juvenile justice at Vrije Universiteit of Brussels.

In addition, the delegation had the opportunity to hear the point of view of the general co-director of the French Belgian service in charge of juvenile detention centres, Institution Publique de Protection de la Jeunesse (IPPJ),  and the director of one of these centres.

The second part of the visit took place in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Leiden. The Tunisian delegation had the occasion to meet with the representatives from the alternatives to detention programmes Multi System Therapy (Rotterdam), Tools4U (Amsterdam) and Halt Programme (Amsterdam), which work first-hand with youth in conflict with the law.  These programmes are featured in the IJJO manual of good practices "Juvenile Offenders Detention Alternatives in Europe". 

This study visit also allowed the Tunisian delegation to meet with members of the European Council for Juvenile Justice based in the Netherlands, namely Professor Ton Liefaard, holder of the UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights at the University of Leiden and deputy juvenile judge at the District Court of Amsterdam, and Kelly Tji, from the 180 Foundation. This Foundation puts into place intervention programmes to incentive the social promotion of youth in conflict with the law.

The IJJO is thankful for the availability of the hosts, without which the study visit would have not occurred, and greatly appreciates the professionalism, efforts and experience they have shared with the delegation.