European Projects

Project "AWAY" : Alternative Ways to Address Youth


AWAY, a project focused on diversion and restorative justice.

Diversion is the process of diverting an arrested / suspected child from judicial proceedings. Diversion is also taken to include forms of restorative justice, also called alternative procedures.

Diversion aims at avoiding using the formal justice system to judge children having committed an offence. There are difference kind and levels of diversion, among others, restorative justice.
The primary purpose of restorative justice is … to restore justice, to seek a peaceful conflict resolution and to contribute to a cohesive and democratic society. It aims at repairing the harm done by the offence committed by a child/young person, avoid recidivism and promote the reintegration of the young offender in the society.

In many countries, restorative justice - or alternative justice - may be perceived as a new and unfamiliar concept while in other, it is a quite well known model applied since many years and through different forms.
Diversion and restorative justice approaches have a great potential, if properly applied, to promote and protect the best interest of the child throughout the various procedural stages.
Although there are now many researches and evidences that “it works”, many countries haven’t really developed and implemented such approaches in their legislation and furthermore in their practices. In the countries where such systems are in place, one can see that there is still a lot of reluctances to use restorative justice. It is not seen as a justice system, the efficiency of the model is at stake and to many actors of the justice system just don’t believe in it! The public opinion sees too often restorative justice as a “fake justice” or a weak one that doesn’t solve anything but is lenient toward child offenders.
There is thus a need to explain, sensitize, raise awareness, inform, convince and promote the system.

In Belgium, restorative justice exists since more than 30 years through different forms: mainly work for the community in the beginning, but since 2006, there has been a development of mediation between the author and the victim and also Restorative Group Conferences. There are other forms of diversion in place, like the project proposed by the young offender. Many social services have acquired an important experience in the field of the implementation of the restorative justice, among other of mediation. This happens at different stages of the procedure. At this stage, the system in place in Belgium is a good balance between the rights of the young offender and the rights of the victims.

In 2008-2009, DCI-Belgium has conducted a two years research on the implementation of the mediation. This research was meant to see:

  • how this system is implementing the International standards of juvenile justice (among others, the General Comment n°10 of the Committee on the rights of the child on the rights of the child in the juvenile justice system);
  • how the restorative justice was perceived by the main actors in place;
  • how the different actors involved were using these possibilities offered by the law.

The research has shown that many of the main actors (prosecutor, judges, lawyers, social services,...) are still reluctant to use these possibilities and that there is doubts about the effectiveness of this approach. There is a need for more evidences. Many actors still use deprivation of liberty as the first measure without even trying diversion/restorative justice.

The AWAY project is promoting restorative justice and diversion programs/systems/approaches to ensure that the main actors that have a power of decision in that matter (mainly the police, the prosecutor, the judges, sometimes the probation officer, the institutions and services implementing the decisions of the judges) think at using these approaches in the first place instead of the traditional means (usually deprivation of liberty).

The project aims at:

  1. Building regional empirical evidence base on diversion in the juvenile justice systems;
  2. Building on research, develop and deliver self-directed e-learning course as well as one-to-one and group mentoring with multidisciplinary professionals around child-friendly practices in the area of diversion;
  3. Using the research findings and recommendations generated by the trainings to develop child-friendly and popularized informational materials for children and adults in the targeted countries;
  4. Informing both local and regional actors on the related policies and plans of action.

Partners :

  1. Terre des hommes Foundation “Lausanne” (TDH) in Hungary (project coordinator)
  2. DCI-Belgium
  3. Brave Phone Croatia
  4. Program for the Development of the Judicial System (PDJS) in Bulgaria
  5. Terre des hommes Helvetia in Romania
  6. The International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO)
  7. PILNET

Contact at DCI-Belgium : Laurent Beauthier (project coordinator at DCI-Belgium) - laurent.beauthier at defensedesenfants.be

Project "MY LAWYER, MY RIGHTS" : Enhancing children’s rights in criminal proceedings in the EU

The right to access legal counsel and representation throughout criminal judicial proceedings is essential to enable children to effectively enjoy and exercise their rights. The Directive 2013/48/EU that enshrines the rights of all suspects or accused persons in criminal proceedings, yet contains few provisions dedicated to improving the protection of children. The Directive does, however, refer to the Council of Europe (COE) Guidelines on Child Friendly Justice (CFJ) that recognize the need to adapt the justice system to the specific rights and needs of children. There are multiple dimensions for children to exercise this right: the child needs to know how and when to contact the lawyer, what to expect, and what to do if this service is not satisfactory, etc. A good defence plays a major role in the measures taken by the judge and the child’s ability to reintegrate and rehabilitate after the criminal justice proceedings. But even though legal aid and representation are recognized as children rights, their application is not systematic among member States. The access to a lawyer for children remains a challenge in most European countries. And yet promoting child-friendly justice means guaranteeing the full satisfaction of their rights.

Funded by the European Commission and coordinated by DCI-Belgium, the project My Lawyer, My Rights has several aims :
- Supporting Member States and advocating for the correct implementation of three Directives on procedural rights, specifically in cases where the person accused or suspected is a child, through practical tools and recommendations;
- Define the conditions for an effective right to defence;
- Assist Member States in establishing national structures specialized in child legal and social aid;
- Developing further and deeper the specificities of the role and mission of a lawyer for children, his training and the structures needed to fully guarantee children’s rights, including formal legal aid systems and socio-legal defence centers;
- Support youth lawyers to become key actors in a proper implementation of the right to access a lawyer for children in criminal proceedings by providing them with information and practical tools to improve their skills and empower them;
- Provide information on existing best practices & (inter)national legislation in the field of juvenile justice in other Member States;
- Focus on youth’s opinion by asking them what THEY think of their right to be properly assisted during proceedings.

To achieve this, our partners teams will work on on :
- Mapping of the youth lawyers systems in the UE. The goal is to have an overview of the existing youth lawyers systems in at least 15 countries. This desk-research will analyse the Legislation, Practice, Financing systems, Type of training youth lawyers get, Associations of youth lawyers and their functioning, existing tools at national level (Manuals/self-training tools/role of the lawyer reports, etc.), Existing reports on child views (participation) and professional views on this topic;
- Editing an online platform whose goal is to provide Member States and other relevant actors with practical and easily accessible tools to track themselves the effective and efficient transposition of the Directive 2013/48 into Juvenile Justice systems; to dispose of tools and examples on: training of the lawyers, definition of their role, child legal aid structures, ethical guidelines and principles, examples of financing systems, etc. All outputs will also be published in this website;
- Professionals and policymakers capacity-building for the correct implementation of the EU Directive (2013/48/UE). This phase is talking about an online manual addressed to Member States in order to indicate how to ensure the legal and justice systems comply with the EU Directive (2013/48/UE) and other EU law standards in the field of Juvenile Justice. Then another online manual addressed to youth lawyers will remind the minimum principles that are applicable in child case. Finally, the editing of a video performed by children and addressed to youth lawyers (video testimonies from BE, NL, IR, IT, BG and PL);
- Implementation of advocacy and dissemination strategies. The advocacy strategy will be implemented in the 6 partner countries (Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Ireland and Bulgaria). The goal is to enter into direct dialogue with national actors and youth lawyer associations and bars through information sessions (including awareness-raising modules + presentation of project’s results) within different public institutions (ministries, youth justice agencies, related government departments, etc.) + in-person meetings with key actors at the decision-making level. At UE level the dissemination Strategy in the 28 EU countries concerns the presentation of the project’s outputs and results in at least 3 strategic EU conferences, presentation of the project’s outputs and results in the EU Parliament.

Project partners :
• Belgium – Defence for Children International (DCI) - coordinator
• ITALY - Defence for Children International (DCI)
• POLAND - Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
• IRELAND- Child Law Clinic (UCC)
• THE NETHERLANDS- Defence for Children International (DCI)
• BULGARIA- Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
• BELGIUM - Child Circle
• DLA Piper – European Law firm
• European Criminal Bar Association (ECBA) - association of independent specialist defence lawyers

This project has officially started on the 1st of September 2016 and will last for two years.

The project My Lawyer, My Rights will have its own website. More info coming soon.

"Children’s Rights Behind Bars": a European project improving monitoring mechanisms


Everywhere in Europe, children are placed in closed centers, in prisons (sometimes mixed with adults), or in other places where they are deprived of liberty. Many international standards apply to children deprived of liberty (article 37 of the International Convention on the Right of the Child, the Rule of the UN for the protection of minors deprived of liberty, Rules of Havana, “Minima Rules” of the UN for the elaboration of non-custodial measures, Rules of Tokyo, etc.).

Secondly, many agencies are in charge of monitoring the conditions of detention and the respect of the rights of detained children. At the international level, it’s the role of the Under-Committee of the United Nations for the Prevention of Torture (SPT), of the Committee of Prevention of Torture from the European Council (CPT); at the national level, the ombudsmen for children (General delegate of the children’s rights, Kinderrechtencommissaris, the parliamentarians, the Commission of penitential surveillance,…).

Contrary to what already exists for adults, there are no guidelines to assist these bodies in their mission to visit and monitor places of detention of minors. Because of their vulnerability, they have very specific needs and rights.

DCI-Belgium hopes to answer this gap and has decided to take control of a European project, funded by the European Commission, gathering partners from 14 other countries and a dozen international experts, to evaluate the monitoring systems of detention of minors and the ways of complaints for children deprived of liberty in Europe. This project favors cooperation between the different mechanisms of control and surveillance and furnishes the necessary tools to accomplish their mission in the best way possible. It consists of two phases: the development of a practical guide to monitoring places where children are deprived of liberty (CRBB 1) and participatory training in a logic of reintegration (CRBB 2).

CRBB 1

This first phase took place between 2014 and 2016. Its final result was the production of a practical guide for professionals in charge of visits to places of deprivation of liberty for children. National studies were also carried out in the 14 countries concerned to assess the functioning of the mechanisms for the control of places of deprivation of liberty for children and the mechanisms of complaints available to them. 14 reports resulted as well as a report giving an overview of the situation in Europe. This project also aims to foster cooperation between the various supervisory and control mechanisms and to provide them with the necessary tools to fulfill their mission as well as possible.

CRBB 2

The second phase of the project started on 1 January 2017 and is an implementation of the achievements of the first phase as well as those of other European projects carried out by DEI-Belgium, such as the Twelve project on participation of children. Its objective will be to improve conditions for the deprivation of liberty of children through the training of supervisory bodies and the strengthening of the capacities of professionals in connection with confinement, promoting the effective participation of children in the process and the promotion of collaborations between the services involved in the reintegration process of children who have been deprived of their liberty.

  • The guide developed during the first part will be translated and disseminated during training sessions in the different partner countries;
  • Several pilot projects involving the active participation of children in the monitoring of conditions of deprivation of liberty will be developed ;
  • Working groups composed of professionals (judges, lawyers, directors of closed institutions, social workers, educators, etc.) will be organized around the process of reintegration for children.

For more information, please visit the page dedicated to this program of visit the project’s website: www.childrensrightsbehindbars.eu

Project « TWELVE »: European project promoting the implementation of the article 12 if the Convention on the Right of the Child in the juvenile justice system



According to the article 12 of the Convention on the Right of the Child (CDC), the child that has analytical abilities is allowed to express what he thinks, what he feels and what he wants on all the question that concern him. He is allowed to freely express his opinion and the right that his opinion is taken into consideration. He particularly has the right to be heard in all the criminal and administrative proceedings that concern him and to actively participate.

The project Twelve’s goal is to promote and improve the implementation of the principle 12 of the CDC as well as that of a justice adapted to children. The main goal is to reinforce and standardise the audition and participation skills of the children, the professionals who worl with children at different stages of the criminal proceedings (judges, lawyers, magistrate, educators, social workers, policemen etc.) in penal maters (protectional) exclusively, so that the article 12 is better respected.

The coordination of this European project ,co- financed by the « Fundamental Rights and citizenship funding Program of the European Union », is carried by DCI- Italy and is realised in partnership with DCI-Belgium, DEI-Spain, ARSIS Greece, Pulse Foundation in Bulgaria and the university of Tartu in Estonia.

Concretely, the project Twelve, which started in October 2014, is made of Three phases, taking place during 18 to 24 months. In a first part, it is about writing a report about children’s and professional’s needs in mater of children audition and participation in the procedures that concern them in three countries: Italy, Spain and Belgium. Then, DCI-Italy will elaborate a multi discipline training tool based on the observations of the national researches. In this frame, pilot training are organised in 6 partner countries, and toward professional concerned with the subject, with the objective of improving this tool by introducing the results of the trainings. To finish, a large diffusion of this tool (which will be translated in seven languages) is planned at a European level and will lead to a final seminar of presentation

The following report explains the situation in Belgium, and particularly in the French speaking community, concerning the juvenile justice and their right to participate. It states that the regulation and the existing practices and summarise the positive but also the weaknesses of the Belgium system. This report is available in French and English.

Download the report in French


Download the report in English here

for more information, you can contact Géraldine Mathieu : geraldine.mathieu at defensedesenfants.be

Procedure rights of foreign children suspected or charged in the European Union PRO-JUS.


DCI-Belgium participates to a pioneer European project called « Procedure rights of foreign children suspected or charged in the European Union» (PRO-JUS).

The project PRO-JUS, supported by the European Union Justice Program and aim to assure that foreign children suspected or charged in criminal proceedings benefit from procedural guarantees which are recognised in the directives of the EU on the right to information, the right to translation and the right to have the help of a lawyer in the frame of the judicial procedures.

The context :

By definition, children do not have the knowledge, the capacity and the independence required in order to demand the respect of their rights. This vulnerability may become more emphasised because of the social and administrative context, particularly if the child is of a foreign nationality.

Even if it is impossible to have an insight of the prevalence of the phenomenon of foreign children suspected or charged in different States of the EU, The more recent estimations suggests that the phenomenon of children in conflict with the law remains important in the majority of the member-States of the EU.

The nature of the issue :

in order to be able to have an effective participation during a trial, a person accused has to be able to talk to a lawyer, to talk with him in an appropriate and understandable language, understand the content of the accusations against him, be informed of the way the procedure works, and to have the ability to help his lawyer to prepare his defence.

The language is the first obstacle which can hinder to process in the case of foreign children suspected or charged of an offence in term of fair trial, access to hi rights and to an information on these ones in the language which he can understand on an appropriate manner. Moreover the access to a trained and skilful lawyer to defend the foreign children is not an easy task which jeopardise the implementation of the right to have a defence, which has to be « practical and effective .

The objectifs :

The project PRO-JUS is implemented in 5 countries:


1. Belgium, under the coordination of DCI-Belgium
2. Spain, under the coordination of Rights International Spain
3. France, under the coordination of Hors La Rue
4. The Netherland, under the coordination of DCI-Holland
5. Hungary, under the coordination of Terre des hommes (Coordinator of the project)

The researches currently run in this 5 countries aim to assure of the knowledge and the good implementation of the national law transposing the European directives in the work of professionals of law, through interview of the professional, of academicians, interpreters and foreign children.

the final goal of the project is to give to the professionals of the law tools that will help to the harmonious implementation of the three directives in the whole of the EU and to improve the access to their rights to the foreign children in the frame of the criminal proceeding.

Interested by the project? Contact: geraldine.mathieu at defensedesenfants.be or visit the page dedicated to this project

Training Activities for Legal Experts on children rights (T.A.L.E)

Defence for Children International (DCI) – Belgium participates to the T.A.L.E. (Training Activities for Legal Experts on children’s rights ) Coordinated by Save the Children Italy.
The project has the objective to train the lawyers, jurists and other professionals assisting and representing the children in judicial cases in order to promote and protect their duty and to assure that the principles guaranteed by the guideline of the Council of Europe are put in place.
Its objective is to train the professionals working with and for children to conform to the guidelines 14 and 15 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
The project also aim to product a training tool which would have been tested during national workshops.

The role of DCI-Belgium in this project

DCI-Belgium plays a very specific role since the main activities of consultation of children and the training of professionals will not be organised in Belgium.

Because of its expertise in matters such as the juvenil justice, the access to justice for children, the defence of their rights, the training of professionals, … DCI-Belgium is in charge of organising trainings at national level, participating to the organisation of a summer course, and participating in the driving committee of the project and the realisation and spreading of the outcomes.

For more information click here or on the website of the project