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Article

Access_open Giving Children a Voice in Court?

Age Boundaries for Involvement of Children in Civil Proceedings and the Relevance of Neuropsychological Insights

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 1 2020
Keywords age boundaries, right to be heard, child’s autonomy, civil proceedings, neuropsychology
Authors Mariëlle Bruning and Jiska Peper
AbstractAuthor's information

    In the last decade neuropsychological insights have gained influence with regard to age boundaries in legal procedures, however, in Dutch civil law no such influence can be distinguished. Recently, voices have been raised to improve children’s legal position in civil law: to reflect upon the minimum age limit of twelve years for children to be invited to be heard in court and the need for children to have a stronger procedural position.
    In this article, first the current legal position of children in Dutch law and practice will be analysed. Second, development of psychological constructs relevant for family law will be discussed in relation to underlying brain developmental processes and contextual effects. These constructs encompass cognitive capacity, autonomy, stress responsiveness and (peer) pressure.
    From the first part it becomes clear that in Dutch family law, there is a tortuous jungle of age limits, exceptions and limitations regarding children’s procedural rights. Until recently, the Dutch government has been reluctant to improve the child’s procedural position in family law. Over the last two years, however, there has been an inclination towards further reflecting on improvements to the child’s procedural rights, which, from a children’s rights perspective, is an important step forward. Relevant neuropsychological insights support improvements for a better realisation of the child’s right to be heard, such as hearing children younger than twelve years of age in civil court proceedings.


Mariëlle Bruning
Professor of Child Law at Leiden Law Faculty, Leiden University.

Jiska Peper
Assistant professor in the Developmental and Educational Psychology unit of the Institute of Psychology at Leiden University.
Article

Access_open Safeguarding the Dynamic Legal Position of Children: A Matter of Age Limits?

Reflections on the Fundamental Principles and Practical Application of Age Limits in Light of International Children’s Rights Law

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 1 2020
Keywords age limits, dynamic legal position, children’s rights, maturity, evolving capacities
Authors Stephanie Rap, Eva Schmidt and Ton Liefaard
AbstractAuthor's information

    In this article a critical reflection upon age limits applied in the law is provided, in light of the tension that exists in international children’s rights law between the protection of children and the recognition of their evolving autonomy. The main research question that will be addressed is to what extent the use of (certain) age limits is justified under international children’s rights law. The complexity of applying open norms and theoretically underdeveloped concepts as laid down in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, related to the development and evolving capacities of children as rights holders, will be demonstrated. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child struggles to provide comprehensive guidance to states regarding the manner in which the dynamic legal position of children should be applied in practice. The inconsistent application of age limits that govern the involvement of children in judicial procedures provides states leeway in granting children autonomy, potentially leading to the establishment of age limits based on inappropriate – practically, politically or ideologically motivated – grounds.


Stephanie Rap
Stephanie Rap is assistant professor in children’s rights at the Department of Child Law, Leiden Law School, the Netherlands.

Eva Schmidt
Eva Schmidt is PhD candidate at the Department of Child Law, Leiden Law School, the Netherlands.

Ton Liefaard
Ton Liefaard is Vice-Dean of Leiden Law School and holds the UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights at Leiden University, Leiden Law School, the Netherlands.

    De grote toestroom van migranten en asielzoekers in de EU houdt vandaag nog steeds verschillende regelgevers wakker. Niet alleen de nationale overheden, maar ook de EU-regelgevers zoeken naarstig naar oplossingen voor de problematiek. Daartoe trachten de EU-regelgevers het Gemeenschappelijk Europees Asielstelsel (GEAS) bij te werken.
    Binnen de groep migranten en asielzoekers bestaat een specifiek kwetsbaar individu: de niet-begeleide minderjarige vreemdeling (NBMV). Hij is zowel vreemdeling als kind en kreeg reeds ruime aandacht binnen de rechtsleer. Nochtans werd deze aandacht niet altijd weerspiegeld in de EU-wetgeving. Het lijkt alsof hij door de regelgevers af en toe uit het oog verloren werd.
    Uit het onderzoek blijkt dat de EU-regelgevers nog een zekere weg te gaan hebben. In de eerste plaats bestaat er wat betreft het geheel aan regels met betrekking tot de NBMV weinig coherentie. De EU-regelgevers zouden bijvoorbeeld meer duidelijkheid kunnen scheppen door een uniforme methode vast te leggen voor de bepaling van de leeftijd van de NBMV. Hetzelfde geldt voor een verduidelijking van de notie ‘het belang van het kind’ binnen asiel en migratie. Verder blijken de Dublinoverdrachten en de vrijheidsontneming van de NBMV nog steeds gevoelige pijnpunten. Hier en daar moet aan de hervorming van het asielstelsel nog wat gesleuteld worden, zodat de rechten van de NBMV optimaal beschermd kunnen worden.
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    Today, the large influx of migrants and asylum seekers into the European Union (EU) keeps several regulators awake. Not only national authorities, but EU regulators too are diligently searching for solutions to the problems. To this end, EU regulators are seeking to update the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).
    There is however a particularly vulnerable individual within the group of migrants and asylum seekers: the unaccompanied alien minor (UAM). These minors already received a great deal of attention within legal doctrine. However, this attention was not always reflected in EU legislation. It seems as if UAM are occasionally lost from sight by the regulators.
    This article shows that the EU regulators still have a certain way to go. First, there is little coherence in the set of rules relating to the UAM. The EU regulators could, for example, create more clarity by laying down a uniform method for determining the age of the UAM. The same applies to a clarification of the notion of 'best interests of the child' within the context of asylum and migration. Second, the proposal for a new Dublin Regulation and the proposal for a new Reception Conditions Directive still appear to be sensitive. Here and there, the reform of the asylum system still needs adjustments, so that the rights of UAM can be optimally protected."


Caranina Colpaert LLM
Caranina Colpaert is PhD researcher

    Nederlandse kinderen lijken minder te weten over kinder- en mensenrechten dan andere kinderen in Europa. Om die reden zien beleidsmakers, wetenschappers en maatschappelijke organisaties een noodzaak om formele educatie op deze onderwerpen te introduceren in alle onderwijsniveaus. Wat denken middelbare leerlingen zelf hier echter over? Dit artikel onderzoekt het rechtsbewustzijn van kinderen in drie Nederlandse middelbare scholen ten aanzien van hun specifieke rechten als kinderen. Het wordt duidelijk dat kinderen ideeën en meningen hebben over hun rechten en daarmee een rechtsbewustzijn hebben, ook als zij geen rechtenjargon gebruiken. Hun rechtsbewustzijn bestaat uit moraliteit, wat verklaart dat zij bepaalde rechten zelf bedenken: sommige thema’s vinden zij zo belangrijk dat zij voelen dat ze deel uitmaken van hun fundamentele rechten als kinderen. Het integreren van mensenrechteneducatie in het schoolcurriculum zou een nodige, maar is een onvoldoende oplossing voor het ‘probleem’ dat voor ons ligt. Het is namelijk niet bewezen of meer kennis op deze onderwerpen ook leidt tot verandering van gedrag. De kinderen maakten namelijk ook bewuste keuzes om níet hun rechten in te roepen, maar om hun problemen anderszins op te lossen. Dit moet worden meegenomen om interventies effectief te laten zijn, zodat niet het tegenovergestelde van wat gewenst is, wordt bereikt. En effectieve interventies dienen daarnaast aan te sluiten bij het dagelijks leven van de kinderen. Volgens de leerlingen zijn kinderrechten vooral ook iets dat we moeten doen en oefenen.
    Dutch children seem to be less informed about children’s and human rights than their peers in other European states. Therefore, policy makers, academics and CSOs recognise a need to introduce formal education on these matters in all levels of schooling. But what do secondary school children themselves think about this? This article explores the legal consciousness of children in three Dutch schools on their specific rights as children. It has been evidenced that children have ideas and opinions about their rights and therefore have a legal consciousness, though without using the language of the law. Their legal consciousness consists of morality, which explains their ‘invention’ of certain rights: some themes are of such importance that they feel these are part of their fundamental rights as children. Integrating human rights education into the school curriculum may be a necessary, but is an insufficient solution to the ‘problem’ at hand. It has not been evidenced whether more knowledge changes their behavior. The children made informed decisions to not invoke their rights, and to solve their problems differently. Effective interventions need to take this into account in order to relate to their everyday lives and avoid having the opposite effect of what is intended. According to the students, children’s rights are mostly something to be done or practiced.


Carrie van der Kroon LL.M.
Carrie van der Kroon works as a programme officer on girls’ rights in the Global South at Defence for Children International – ECPAT the Netherlands. She obtained her masters in Legal Research (Cum Laude) at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, specialising in international children’s rights from a socio-legal perspective.
Article

Access_open Religie en cultuur in familierechtelijke beslissingen over kinderen

Journal Family & Law, September 2015
Authors Mr. dr. Merel Jonker, Rozemarijn van Spaendonck and Mr. dr. Jet Tigchelaar
AbstractAuthor's information

    In deze bijdrage worden de resultaten gepresenteerd van een uitgebreid jurisprudentieonderzoek naar de wijze waarop religie en cultuur betrokken worden in de overwegingen van de rechter in familierechtelijke beslissingen over kinderen in Nederland. Naast een kwantitatief overzicht van de gepubliceerde jurisprudentie worden de uitspraken inhoudelijk ontsloten en geanalyseerd aan de hand van thema's zoals bloedtransfusies, cultuurverschillen en identiteitsontwikkeling, rituelen (besnijdenis en doop) en schoolkeuze. Bij de analyse wordt onderscheid gemaakt tussen de rechten van het kind en de rechten van ouders, en wordt ingegaan op de vraag welke criteria de rechter hanteert voor de afweging van de rechten van het kind en diens ouders. Ook wordt besproken in hoeverre internationale normen herkenbaar zijn in de overwegingen van de rechter. Uit de 79 rechtszaken waarin de rechter overwegingen wijdt aan religie en cultuur, blijkt dat deze aspecten zowel positieve als negatieve effecten kunnen hebben op het belang van het kind en met name op de identiteitsontwikkeling van het kind. De rechter hanteert hierbij criteria zoals: schade voor de gezondheid van het kind, sociale aansluiting met anderen van dezelfde religieuze of culturele achtergrond, en praktische overwegingen.
    This contribution presents the results of an extensive Dutch case law study on the way in which religion and culture play a role in the considerations of judges in family law decisions regarding children. In addition to a quantitative overview of the published case law in the Netherlands, the decisions are analysed on the basis of themes such as blood transfusion, culture differences and identity development, rituals (circumcision and baptism), and choosing a school. In the analysis, a distinction is made between the rights of the child and the rights of parents. Furthermore, the criteria which the judge deploys to balance the rights of the child and the rights of its parents are addressed. Finally, the extent to which international legal standards can be identified in the considerations of the judge is discussed. From the 79 cases in which the judge consider to religion and culture, it appears that these aspects can have both positive and negative effects upon the best interests of the child, and in particular upon the identity development of the child. In these cases, the judge uses criteria such as: harm to the health of the child, social connections with others of the same religious and cultural background, and practical day-to-day considerations.


Mr. dr. Merel Jonker
Merel Jonker is als universitair docent verbonden aan de vakgroep Privaatrecht van de Universiteit Utrecht en aan het Utrecht Centre for European research into Family Law (UCERF).

Rozemarijn van Spaendonck
Rozemarijn van Spaendonck is Legal Research Master student en is vanaf 1 november 2015 als aio verbonden aan de vakgroep Strafrecht van de Universiteit Utrecht.

Mr. dr. Jet Tigchelaar
Jet Tigchelaar is als universitair docent verbonden aan de vakgroep Staats- en bestuursrecht en rechtstheorie van de Universiteit Utrecht en aan het Utrecht Centre for European research into Family Law (UCERF).
Article

Access_open Juveniles’ Right to Counsel during Police Interrogations: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of a Youth-Specific Approach, with a Particular Focus on the Netherlands

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 4 2014
Keywords legal representation, counsel, juvenile justice, police interrogations, children’s rights
Authors Prof. Dr. Ton Liefaard Ph.D. LL.M and Yannick van den Brink
AbstractAuthor's information

    The right to counsel of juveniles at the stage of police interrogations has gained significant attention since the Salduz ruling of the European Court on Human Rights in 2008. The legislative and policy developments that have taken place since then and that are still ongoing – both on a regional (European) and domestic (Dutch) level – reveal a shared belief that juvenile suspects must be awarded special protection in this phase of the criminal justice proceedings. This calls for a youth-specific approach as fundamentally different from the common approach for adults. At the same time, there seems to be ambivalence concerning the justification and concrete implications of such a youth-specific approach. This article aims to clarify the underlying rationale and significance of a youth specific approach to the right to counsel at the stage of police interrogations on the basis of an interdisciplinary analysis of European Court on Human Rights case law, international children’s rights standards and relevant developmental psychological insights. In addition, this article aims to position this right of juveniles in conflict with the law in the particular context of the Dutch juvenile justice system and provide concrete recommendations to the Dutch legislator.


Prof. Dr. Ton Liefaard Ph.D. LL.M
Prof. Dr. T. Liefaard is Professor of Children’s Rights (UNICEF Chair) at Leiden Law School, Department of Child Law; t.liefaard@law.leidenuniv.nl.

Yannick van den Brink
Y.N. van den Brink, LL.M, MA, is PhD researcher at Leiden Law School, Department of Child Law; y.n.van.den.brink@law.leidenuniv.nl.
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