Govt, House approve juvenile justice bill
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The government and the House of Representatives (DPR) have approved a bill on juvenile criminal offenders that is expected to reduce the number of children behind bars.
Drafted by the government in April 2011, the bill allows investigators, attorneys and judges to seek out-of-court settlements, with the approval of victims, for any crimes committed by minors which carry less than seven years in prison.
The bill also stipulates that minors aged from 14 to 18 can be incarcerated in detention centers if they commit a crime which carries a penalty of more than seven years in jail.
“The bill uses a restorative approach to crimes committed by children,” Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Linda Gumelar said on Tuesday.
“Such a perspective allows for a fair solution for all parties, including the perpetrators, the victims, and other related parties,” Linda told reporters on the sidelines of a House plenary session.
Linda touted the out-of-court settlement provisions of the bill: “This is a more peaceful solution for children, while at the same time also upholding their rights.”
Lawmakers passed the bill without objection, citing the “urgency for establishing a pro-child judiciary system.”
Lawmaker Aziz Syamsuddin, deputy chairman of House Commission III overseeing law and human rights, said at the plenary session that the House would give the government five years to implement the bill.
“Commission III asked the government to start preparing necessary infrastructure and human rights resources so that the bill can be effectively implemented. Therefore, we want the government to have clear programs during the transition period,” Aziz said.
Contacted separately, Apong Herlina of the Indonesian Commission for Child Protection (KPAI) welcomed the approval of the bill, saying it would reduce the number of children imprisoned for criminal convictions.
According to the KPAI, around 7,000 children were brought to court in the nation, with around 80 percent eventually convicted and incarcerated.
There are currently upwards of 6,000 children in detention in the nation’s prisons, according to the government. Most share cells with adult inmates.
“Allowing out-of-court settlements for child offenders is a progressive move because it will help children avoid cruel treatment from adults in penitentiaries. It is even much better as the bill stipulates punishments, of up to two years’ imprisonment, for example, for authorities who fail to accommodate such settlements,” Apong told The Jakarta Post.
However, Apong said that the KPAI regretted the government’s insistence on creation of youth detention facilities, calling the move destined to fail to rehabilitate child offenders.