28th Conference of European Ministers of Justice

"Emerging issues of access to justice for vulnerable groups, in particular:
- migrants and asylum seekers;
- children, including children as perpetrators of crime"

25-26 October 2007, Lanzarote, Spain

 About the conference

The Ministers of Justice of the member States of the Council of Europe will meet in Lanzarote in order to identify problems and promote and develop a common approach to improve access to justice for vulnerable groups. Two specific categories of particularly vulnerable persons will be highlighted: migrants and asylum seekers, and children.

Massive flows of migrants and asylum seekers pose an unprecedented challenge for Europe, creating tensions as well as new opportunities. The Conference will deal with the question of access to justice for migrants and asylum seekers who need special protection and should be entitled to exercise their fundamental rights like any other person, regardless of their nationality or status. Focus will be on the rule of law and respect for human rights while proposing solutions to the difficulties encountered by these specific vulnerable groups.

The other major focus of the Conference is the issue of access to justice for children, including children in conflict with the law. The child-friendly dimension of judicial systems and how children actually access justice will be assessed, taking into consideration inter alia the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the European Convention on Human Rights and the measures laid down in the European Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights and the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. Issues linked to the placement of children in care, the role of the State and the rights of children in care will also be discussed.

The Council of Europe has recently completed a Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse which provides a comprehensive list of child-friendly measures designed to protect child victims of sexual offences at all stages of criminal justice proceedings. The Council of Europe is currently drafting European Rules for juvenile offenders subject to community sanctions or measures or deprived of their liberty which aim at better protecting juvenile offenders’ rights and ensuring their re-integration into society. The protection of the rights of children is a top priority for the Council of Europe under the programme “Building a Europe for and with Children” which aims at promoting children's rights and the protection of children from violence.

The 28th Conference will open a forum for exchanging views on these issues and identifying areas where further efforts are needed in order to ensure that vulnerable groups have effective access to justice.