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Minister Peluso and Queen Silvia of Sweden discuss child protection


In celebration of the National Day to Combat Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children and Adolescents, on May 18, the Chief Justice of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (STF)and presidente of the National Council of Justice, Minister Cezar Peluso, and Queen Silvia of Sweden opened the “First Encounter on National Experiences for Hearing the Testimony of Children and Adolescents in Brazilian courts”.

The opening ceremony was held in the Grand Hall of the Supreme Court (STF) in the presence of journalists, guests and the chairman of the organization Childhood Brazil, Rosana Camargo de Arruda Botelho, who, along with the National Council of Justice (CNJ), promoted the meeting.

The “First Meeting” was held between January 18 and May 20 in Brasilia with the participation of 150 judges, prosecutors, public defenders and technicians from around the country to exchange experiences and discuss less invasive methods to listen to children and adolescents who are victims or witnesses of sexual violence.


May 18

The National Day to Combat Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children and Adolescents, May 18, has been introduced by Federal Law 9.970/2000 in honor of the girl Araceli Sanchez, age 8, who in 1973 was kidnapped, raped and killed in Vitória, Espirito Santo. Since then, the date provides reflection and mobilization to combat sexual violence against children and adolescents throughout the country.

The President of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) opens the meeting sponsored by the National Council of Justice (CNJ) and Childhood Brazil.

"Child is father to the man. Therefore, to respect the rights of children today is to invest in the training of responsible citizens of tomorrow". With this thought, the president of the Supreme Court (STF) and of the National Council of Justice (CNJ), Minister Cezar Peluso, opened the “First Encounter on National Experiences for Hearing the Testimony of Children and Adolescents in Brazilian courts”.

In his speech, Minister Peluso noted that since taking office as president of the STF and the CNJ, he has prioritized actions to enhance citizens' access to a speedier justice. According to Minister Peluso, such actions include "joining efforts in task forces to solve pending cases, and to spread the Maria da Penha law on prevention and combat of violence against women as well as the national campaign against bullying in schools.

In that sense, the Minister stressed the importance of ensuring the rights of children and adolescents, especially of those in the delicate situation of being a witness to or a victim of sexual crimes. Peluso feels that providing certain conditions for these children to be heard in court stops "these victims from having to go through unnecessary repetition, often shocking, of several depositions, before the police or forensic technicians".

In closing his speech, Minister Cezar Peluso highlighted the rights of children as a process of hope for building the future and cited the Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges, for whom "hope is nothing more than a longing for the future that we have not".


World Childhood Foundation and the search for a childhood free of abuse and sexual exploitation

In her speech, Queen Silvia of Sweden said that "to forget is to accept and to remember is to fight". It was with this statement that she thanked Minister Peluso "for everything you are doing for the children." Her first remark was quoted as the slogan chosen by Brazilian organizations to mark this May 18. "(That theme) synthesizes a new attitude that we want to spread throughout society and fits perfectly for the occasion of this meeting" she said.

Queen Silvia created the World Childhood Foundation, which has representatives in Brazil and develops actions in pursuit of a childhood free from abuse and sexual exploitation: "I am proud to say that since 12 years both myself and the Childhood Foundation have the special mission to call attention to a subject about which many people still prefer not to talk. But our work involves 16 countries, and Cambodia was the latest to be included in the international network of child protection".

She noted that in all countries of the world, children are victims of domestic and sexual violence and stressed that, in 2010 in Brazil alone, there were 32,365 complaints of child pornography on the Internet. Other 4,336 reports of abuse and sexual exploitation of children and adolescents have been conducted only in the first quarter of 2011. The data were presented by the Queen to remember that Non-Governmental Organizations and Brazilian companies have taken "seriously and creatively" their compromise to protect children.


The Judiciary

Also in her speech, Queen Silvia highlighted the role of the Brazilian legal system which, she says, should be praised for adopting specific procedures to ensure the rights of children and adolescents, such as the creation of Special Courts for Children and Youth, and for encouraging, more recently, the discussion of specific less traumatic techniques for taking the testimony of children, either victims or witnesses of crimes, the so-called “special testimony procedure”.

"The protection of children from suffering during the court proceedings is a right guaranteed in international laws, adopted by the United Nations for the examination of child and adolescent victims and witnesses of crimes" she said.

According to her, these actions have been showing very positive results in gradual but firm steps. In that sense, she cited some examples, such as greater social awareness about sexual violence and its consequences for children, the adoption of new instruments, procedures and laws in many countries, increasing the protection of human rights of children and adolescents, and the growth of enforcement laws, particularly in its application in border areas, among others.

The queen said that in Sweden there are special rooms in the headquarters of the police and the Court of Justice where special techniques for interviews are used. She thinks it is very important to have an adequate environment for the collection of evidence. In her view, the humanization of the testimony "has proven to be one of the key factors for increasing disclosure of sexual abuse cases as well as the accountability of offenders, thus contributing to breaking the cycle of impunity."


Recommendation

The concern of the Brazilian Judiciary in the development of specific techniques for less traumatic testimonies of children who have been victims to or are witnesses of sexual crimes has already shown positive effects. Last year, the National Council of Justice approved Recommendation 33/2010 addressed to all Courts of the country to adopt specialized services for this type of procedure.

The National Council of Justice recommended to the courts that such reports are made ​​in an appropriate environment, ensuring the deponents security, privacy, comfort and receptive conditions. Furthermore, "the technical services of the judicial system must be able to promote support, guidance and referral assistance for physical and emotional health of the victim or witnesses and their families if necessary, during and after court proceedings."

Thus, according to the recommendation of the National Council of Justice (CNJ), the judicial system must seek truth from facts and blame the attacker, but also to preserve the child and adolescent "whether he or she was either a victim or a witness of violence, given the natural difficulty involving the explanation of such events."

That measure seeks to ensure the rights of children and juveniles under the Federal Constitution, the International Convention on the Rights of Children as well as the Child and Adolescent Act (Federal Law 8069/1990).


Read Minister Peluso' speech (in Portuguese).

 

 

 

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