U.S. and Mauritius Work Together to Protect Children in Criminal Court System
Port Louis, August 30, 2012:
In 2010, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) approached the U.S. Embassy in order to address a number of issues regarding the treatment of child witnesses and victims in the Mauritian court system. The Office of the DPP noted that the court environment was not always child-friendly. The DPP’s Office deemed that due to the absence of a policy regarding the treatment of children in court, or legislation protecting the rights of victims, 90 percent of cases involving children as witnesses or victims were, in the end, abandoned. The U.S. Embassy endeavored to help the DPP’s Office and Government of Mauritius address this concern.
In June of this year, the U.S. Government provided three resource persons with extensive expertise working with children in the court system for the first phase of the Children as Victims and Witnesses in the Criminal Justice System Workshop: In June, the workshop focused on Mauritian professionals dealing with children in the court. These included lawyers, prosecutors, police prosecutors, social workers, judges, magistrates, police officers, organizations working for the rights of children, probation officers, psychologists, NGOs, and Ministries of the Government of Mauritius.
The second phase of this training enterprise began today, as court administrators who interact with children and their families in the court situation attended a workshop at the Le Meridien hotel. Speaking at the launch of this event, U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Troy Fitrell said: “There have been similar problems with working with children in the U.S. Court system and so we are once again honored to have members from the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI, who have developed expertise in how protect children in the judicial process. Children are not simply, “little adults, when they are victims, witnesses, or defendants in the criminal justice system. They have unique and special needs related to their age, their mental and physical development, and their level of communication skills. To treat them as “little adults” is to mistreat them.”
The workshop involves special training for these stakeholders of the legal system, as “first responders” who need to know what to do when they see or suspect child abuse or neglect, as well as well as making courthouses a more “child-friendly” environment. Resource persons from the U.S. Deparment of Justice, who are in Mauritius especially for this training program, include District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Patricia A. Broderick and U.S. Prosecutor Tara C. Neda.
The second part of the workshop continues tomorrow, August 31. It will target judges and magistrates and deal with the legal requirements of protecting children’s physical and psychological health while simultaneously protecting the due process rights of all litigants. It will also focus on the Child Victim and Witness Rights Act, as well as special courtroom considerations for children. The training is also set to address child trafficking.