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Finding solutions for the best interests of the child

"Children are the most vulnerable members of society who have no influence on the environment in which they grow up. It is therefore our duty to pay attention to their vulnerability, to be their voice, and to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of abuse," said the Minister of Justice at the beginning of the public discussion on the draft act on the protection of children in criminal proceedings and their comprehensive treatment in a children's house.

The draft act was drawn up in cooperation with the Council of Europe within the project on supporting the implementation of the Barnahus model in Slovenia, which is carried out with the financial support of the Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support at the European Commission. It was put to public discussion on the occasion of the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression.

In cooperation with other key line ministries and stakeholders, the Ministry of Justice began to implement the project of establishing a children's house in Slovenia according to the Icelandic Barnahus model. "The house will initially be intended for young victims of sexual abuse. It will allow for rapid and effective action and comprehensive treatment through a proper, child-friendly multidisciplinary and interinstitutional approach. The main goal will be to coordinate parallel criminal investigations and child protection proceedings, so as to prevent re-traumatisation during an investigation and court proceedings. A children's house is a place where victims, i.e. children, feel safe, where their interview is conducted by qualified professionals and which provides them with support and psychosocial assistance."

Based on the review of Slovenia's regulation of the protection of children in criminal proceedings, it was established inter alia that the existing Slovenian legislation is inconsistent and does not equally protect all children in criminal proceedings; furthermore, the position of an expert in assisting in a child interview as set out in the Criminal Procedure Act is not specific enough and the right to defence during interviewing a child is not sufficiently protected. The proposed act, therefore, addresses these deficiencies.

For the best interests of the child, child-friendly and safe treatment and the environment, and to strengthen child-friendly justice, the draft act sets

The draft act was drawn up in cooperation with the Council of Europe within the project on supporting the implementation of the Barnahus model in Slovenia, which is carried out with the financial support of the Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support at the European Commission. It was put to public discussion on the occasion of the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression.

In cooperation with other key line ministries and stakeholders, the Ministry of Justice began to implement the project of establishing a children's house in Slovenia according to the Icelandic Barnahus model. "The house will initially be intended for young victims of sexual abuse. It will allow for rapid and effective action and comprehensive treatment through a proper, child-friendly multidisciplinary and interinstitutional approach. The main goal will be to coordinate parallel criminal investigations and child protection proceedings, so as to prevent re-traumatisation during an investigation and court proceedings. A children's house is a place where victims, i.e. children, feel safe, where their interview is conducted by qualified professionals and which provides them with support and psychosocial assistance."

Based on the review of Slovenia's regulation of the protection of children in criminal proceedings, it was established inter alia that the existing Slovenian legislation is inconsistent and does not equally protect all children in criminal proceedings; furthermore, the position of an expert in assisting in a child interview as set out in the Criminal Procedure Act is not specific enough and the right to defence during interviewing a child is not sufficiently protected. The proposed act, therefore, addresses these deficiencies.

For the best interests of the child, child-friendly and safe treatment and the environment, and to strengthen child-friendly justice, the draft act sets out the institutional framework and procedures for the protection of children in criminal proceedings. It includes all child victims and witnesses of crimes against humanity, life and limb, sexual integrity, certain crimes against human rights and fundamental freedoms, and other crimes.

The draft act stipulates that the comprehensive treatment of juvenile victims and witnesses is a public service provided by the state. This public service will be provided in a special public institution called the children's house.

This act will be open to public discussion for 60 days, i.e. until 3 August 2020. As part of the public discussion, the Ministry of Justice will hold several consultative events as regards the draft act. With the help of the Council of Europe, the Ministry will hold consultations with children on the topic of solutions included in the proposed act, which will be the first such consultation in Slovenia. The purpose of consultations with children is to implement the principle of children's participation and at the same time familiarise them with the proposed improvements to the protection of their rights.

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