By Jalal Aby Saleh
According to a 2019 Criminal Information Department of the Public Security Directorate report, that year young people committed 181 crimes, 10 misdemeanors, 1,629 crimes against property, 156 crimes against public administration, 98 crimes against public safety, 310 crimes against public morals and ethics, and 28 other crimes, including 16 suicides.
Even though the Criminal Statistical Report shows a 2.2% decrease, in 2019, in juvenile crimes over those committed in 2018 — a total of 2,428 crimes, out of which 951 felonies and 1,461 misdemeanors, were committed by young people in 2019, while 2,464 were committed in 2018 — the issue brings into focus the need to raise legal awareness among the youths, who seem to lack understanding of the dangers of their acts and their consequences.
The Juvenile Law (2014) qualifies as a minor anyone under the age of 18.
The report figures show a worrying trend among juveniles; it is an issue that needs to be addressed in schools, the media, and by civil society organizations. It is important to provide young people with information and facts about involvement in illegal activities.
One of the cases handled by the legal aid department of the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) is that of Montaser (pseudonym), a 17-year-old who stole six gas cylinders from six households, which led to six cases lodged against him. The number of cases only meant higher legal fees for his family.
According to ARDD’s legal aid department, such cases are rare, but they show the legal challenges juveniles face in case of crimes due to their lack of understanding of the gravity of the entire situation. The juveniles the department worked with believe such issues are simple to solve.
ARDD represents Montaser in this case, which is still under processing, but according to the Juvenile Law, he can face one to three years in prison. He may even be placed in a rehabilitation center for one-third of the imprisonment time multiplied by six.
The legal department is seeking to convince complainants to drop charges and have imprisonment replaced with other types of punishment that do not involve locking the child up. They are also working on merging all punishments into one.
Ibrahim (a 16-year-old Syrian) was also represented by the legal aid department, having been charged with taking part in a theft. The department could not help because he had confessed his crime.
In Ibrahim’s (pseudonym) case, the department provided legal and psychological support and negotiated to get him a lighter sentence, placing him under supervision for good behavior for three months, instead of having him placed in a rehabilitation center.
It is important to raise legal awareness amongst juveniles in an effort to prevent them from getting involved in crimes. Civil society organization need to focus on legal awareness programs that have a positive effect on individuals and society.
These stories are part of the “Enhancement of the protective environment of Syrian and Jordanian Children” project ” Implemented in partnership with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the project aims to contribute to creating a better protective environment for Syrian and Jordanian children at risk, including children with disabilities living in the most vulnerable communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, through the provision of legal services and cash support.