27.03.2017 - News

Gaza: Eleven children receive an alternative to detention

Months of lobbying and advocacy culminated in Terre des hommes (Tdh) securing the release of eleven boys aged 15 to 17 who were detained for minor offences. This is the first time the formal system and ultimately a judge signed on an official document indicating that children would receive a vocational training instead of detention.

“Although the process of sentencing and discharging the children was complicated, this non-custodial measure is unprecedented in Gaza”, says Marta Gil, Justice for Children Coordinator at Tdh Palestine. “With the dedication of Terre des hommes and the Ministry of Social Affairs, we managed to tackle all the bureaucratic issues. Today, I can say that there is a mechanism in place to apply alternatives to detention in Gaza.”

The process took a lot of work with the social and judicial authorities to let the children access supervised vocational trainings. “It was a very complex process as it was the first time in Gaza that children were officially released by a court to access an alternative to detention”, says one of the Tdh staff in Gaza. Together with the Ministry of Social Affairs, we established a committee to review the files of all the detained children at Al-Rabee Centre. A group of pre-selected children were interviewed and – based on specific criteria – eleven of them were chosen to access vocational trainings.

Khaled*, 16, is one of the eleven boys who benefited from a vocational training instead of detention. “I had been five months in prison. I know I did wrong as I should not have stolen anything from anyone, but it was very long and hard to be there”, he told Lubna, a Tdh psychologist. “I want to work and be a car painter in the future. I am preparing myself in the vocational training.”

Khaled, arrested by the police for stealing two empty water tanks, has benefited from a vocational training instead of detention. This is a first in Gaza.

Khaled, a Tdh beneficiary in Gaza

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Lubna works with these children and provides family therapy. “Working with the families is crucial. These children have committed minor offences but have been mixed with serious offenders. The assimilation of what they have lived in the detention centre takes time. I help them understand, recover and reintegrate”, she says.

With the financial support of UNDP and UNICEF, our Justice For Children programme in Palestine seeks to decrease the number of children in police custody and/or closed rehabilitation centres and to provide alternatives to detention to children and adolescents.

Key elements of this success story include the involvement of the Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR), the High Judicial Council, competent courts for each case, prosecutors, lawyers, child protection counsellors and probation officers, social and psychologist teams and the children’s families as well.

*Name has been changed

Photo credit: ©Tdh

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