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My Human Rights And The Law

What are my rights if I come into conflict with the law?

Anyone under the age of 18 who is alleged to have committed an offense should be considered under the juvenile justice system. Juvenile justice systems exist to recognize the specific situation of children and young people who come in conflict with the law, to enhance their protection and to promote reintegration into society.

Some countries including Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden have extended the rules for juvenile justice to young adults over the age of 18, a move that aligns with findings from the scientific field of developmental psychology that are increasingly pointing to the fact that full maturity is reached around the age of 25.

Where can I learn more?

In 1985, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, known as the Beijing Rules. The Beijing Rules set out guidance and instructions on how minors should be treated when they come into contact with the justice system, and recommend that States make efforts to extend juvenile justice systems to young adult offenders.

Additionally, the Human Rights Committee, which is the UN Treaty Body or committee of independent human rights experts responsible for monitoring the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has issued several General Comments that are relevant in the context of juvenile justice, as follows:

  • General Comment 21 on Article 10 (Humane Treatment of Persons Deprived of their Liberty), available in English
  • General Comment 32 on Article 14, Right to equality before courts and tribunals and to fair trial
  • General Comment 35 on Article 9, Liberty and security of person

In addition to the above, it is worth referring to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its General Comment 24 on children’s rights in the child justice system.

For more information on what the UN Treaty Bodies are and how they work, see Section C under ‘What are the Human Rights Treaty Bodies?’.

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