24.05.2018 - News

Panama: an adapted justice for children

Terre des hommes (Tdh), the world leader in promoting restorative juvenile justice, is a co-organiser of the World Congress 2018 on Justice for Children. One of its aims is to heighten the awareness of various professionals to the status of children in judicial proceedings. In Panama, Tdh promotes this in the so-called ‘indigenous’ justice, by inviting community leaders to adapt their justice systems to children and adolescents.

Children should remain children before the law

In most Latin American countries, two justice systems co-exist: the state justice system and the ancestral indigenous system. Amongst Panama’s seven indigenous communities, there are no specific procedures for children in place. Minors are treated the same as adults. We consulted with indigenous community leaders in Panama, who showed an interest in establishing an adapted and rights-based justice system for children.

An innovative project bringing all the relevant actors together

Restorative juvenile justice is based on restoring the broken trust between the offender and the victim or the community. To identify ways of achieving this objective, we organised 20 workshops with 640 traditional judges and authorities from all seven indigenous communities, as well as with 110 indigenous students from different universities across Panama in 2017. The participants learned about the two justice systems, identified good juvenile justice practices and reflected on their system’s institutional development to guarantee respect for children’s rights.

This project has been very innovative as there are very few events that actually involve young indigenous people from different communities,” says Yanisbeth Daira González, law student at the University of Panama.

Expanding towards a regional level

Together with the Fundación para la Promoción del Conocimiento Indígena (FPCI), we organised the National Seminar on Indigenous Juvenile Justice, where more than 130 indigenous authorities from seven communities, students and international juvenile justice specialists participated and shared good practices, which guarantee better protection of indigenous children and adolescents in conflict with the law in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This pilot project in Panama is inspiring similar initiatives to expand Tdh’s engagement with indigenous justice actors across Latin America.

Watch the full movie about our projects in the field of juvenile justice.

Photo credits: ©Tdh