The special needs of thousands of Iraqi children held in juvenile institutions and detention centres were the focus of a just-concluded, five-day workshop aimed at improving conditions for young people who have come in conflict with the law, officials with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) based in Baghdad and Amman have reported.”Juvenile justice and protective institutions must take the particular developmental needs of Iraqi children who do not live with their families into account,” stressed Roger Wright, UNICEF’s Special Representative for Iraq. “We know that children can be taught the difference between right and wrong, and go on to lead productive lives that contribute positively to their communities and society.” Twenty government representatives from orphanages, reformatories and ministries in Baghdad and northern Iraq learned more about international standards of juvenile justice and child rights during the five-day workshop, according to UNICEF. Mr. Wright said that improving juvenile justice was, however, only one element of a complex and interrelated scenario. “While it is critical to address how children in detention are being treated, it is also crucially important to focus on reducing the vulnerabilities and circumstances that push children to the edge and into lifestyles which often result in law-breaking and criminality,” he added. The workshop sought to foster a deeper and broader understanding that will guide approaches towards juvenile justice and institutionalization, upgrade and strengthen the existing system as well as provide more child-friendly services, according to UNICEF. The agency plans to provide follow-up training to other personnel, including social workers involved in Iraq’s juvenile justice system, all for the benefit of children in conflict with the law, those in juvenile reformatories as well as in detention, and their families. UNICEF said Iraqi officials have pledged to bring Iraq’s juvenile justice law, as well as the regulations for related institutions, in line with the new Iraqi constitution, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and other international treaties.

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