The Child Friendly Justice European Network (CFJ-EN) through Defence for Children International Belgium (DCI-Belgium), organised the Annual Seminar ‘A 360° View on Child Friendly Justice’, convening child rights stakeholders on Friday 14 October 2022 in Brussels, Belgium.
COHUBICOL postdoc researcher Desara Dushi delivered a talk at the workshop ‘Towards a World of Digital Courts: Impacts on Child Justice’ of the Annual Seminar, which was organised by Terre des hommes Foundation and the Global Initiative on Justice with Children. In order to guarantee the child’s right to fair access to justice during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, an important number of countries have opted to digitise court proceedings using technological tools and virtual courts. The session aimed to reflect on how digital court and technological tools used in child justice could impact access to justice for children in contact and/or conflict with the law.
In her talk Dushi focused on the following:
- a brief description behind the reasons and justifications that led to remote court hearings;
- the impact of remote court hearings on the rule of law, particularly on access to justice, and on procedural affordances;
- analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of virtual hearings, their impact on children’s ability to participate effectively and adequately in them, to understand the judicial processes that affect them, to communicate with their legal adviser, touching also upon their impact on more vulnerable children (children with disabilities, children having limited access to technology or who aren’t technologically literate or who require an intermediary or a translator, the digital divide, which impact children’s right to equal treatment).
- mentioned different countries’ approaches concerning legal aid in a digital context and the obstacles to children’s access to fair justice in this context.
- underlined the importance of developing specific standards and safeguards regulating the use of remote technology in justice proceedings, and addressed the concerns about privacy and security of children, participatory rights, a due process, and fair trials in online hearings.
- ending with suggesting that remote hearings could be the default for certain simple administrative hearings with minimal parties attending, but that other, more complex hearings should be considered on a case-by-case basis, leaving it optional for parties to request what suits them best. She highlighted that decisions as to hearing format must be based on the needs of the parties, rather than the convenience of lawyers and courts.