Emerging issues of access to justice
for vulnerable groups, in particular:

Migrants and asylum seekers and children,
including children as perpetrators of crime

25-26 October 2007
Lanzarote, Spain

The Ministers of Justice of the member States of the Council of Europe met 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 dealt 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 was 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 was 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 were 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 also were 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 opened 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.


The ministers of justice of the Council of Europe's 47 member states requested the organisation to start preparing “European guidelines for child-friendly justice”.

In a resolution adopted at the 28th Conference of European Ministers of Justice ministers asked the Council to examine ways of improving the manner in which authorities provide information to children on their rights and access to justice, including the European Court of Human Rights, and how the views of children can be taken into account during judicial proceedings. (more)


Opening for signature of the Council of Europe Convention against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children

On 25 October in Lanzarote, twenty-three member states signed the Convention which represents a major step in the prevention of sexual offences against children. Deputy Secretary General Maud de Boer-Buquicchio expressed satisfaction at the number of signatures and encouraged other countries to follow suit. (more)