Children's and Victims’ Rights in the Criminal Justice System

Course Description: 

The first part of the course will address the basic human rights questions in the context of children’s rights such as the need for special human rights instruments for specific groups or the universal/local dilemma. Following an overview of the development of international instruments the unique nature of the Convention on the Rights of the Child will be discussed with the focus on children at risk both as offenders and victims. Different models of the juvenile justice system will be presented as well as trends in juvenile justice as reflected in UN documents, in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the US Supreme Court. The last part, within this children’s rights segment, will address the protection of child victims of crime, the emphasis being put on the models of juvenile justice and the documents and case-law addressing child victims. We shall survey measures taken on national and international level to design a criminal justice system that meets the specific needs of child victims

After elaborating on the most debated aspects of children’s rights in general and on child victims, the analysis will be extended to the second broad topic of this course namely to victims’ status and their rights in the criminal justice system irrespective of age.. This segment will start with the examination of the position of crime victims in a historical perspective followed by the analysis of international documents adopted on global and regional level. After the comparison of the status of victims in the adversary and non-adversary process we will identify the reasons for the discovery of victims’ interests. The course will extend to the jurisprudence of the Inter-American and the European Human Rights Court addressing the rights of victims. In this context the doctrine of States’ positive obligation to protect and the horizontal effect of human rights treaties will thoroughly be discussed. Also the so called Victim Participatory Model of the criminal process advocated by numerous scholars will be analyzed. The course will also present the status of victims in international criminal proceedings and address the question if the extension of victims’ participatory rights may jeopardize defendants’ right to a fair trial.

Learning Outcomes: 
  • Ability to demonstrate substantial knowledge of international human rights law and constitutional rights at a basic level.
  • Ability to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of children’s rights, juvenile justice and victim’s rights in international human rights law at a basic level
  • Ability to demonstrate an awareness and understanding of the wider context of legal issues relating to human rights.
  • Ability to analyze issues in a policy relevant manner.
  • Ability to construct well-reasoned arguments at a basic level.
  • Ability to use cases and precedents in legal reasoning.

Assessment is based on in-class participation (10 %), group exercise (20 %) and in-class final exam (70 %). The final exam is a two-hour open book exam.