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9. 10.

98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 310/105

(98/C 310/140) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0623/98

by Angela Billingham (PSE) to the Commission

(9 March 1998)

Subject: Children and Juvenile Code in Guatemala

Is the European Commission aware that under the present Children’s code in Guatemala, which was established
in 1969, children can be indefinitely locked up ‘for their own benefit’ in dangerous, repressive, ill-equipped
government juvenile detention centres where the use of torture and beatings has been documented? They have no
right to a defence lawyer nor independent appeals.

Could the European Commission bring pressure on the Guatemalan Government to speedily implement the new
Children and Juvenile Code which would make the child a ‘subject’ of law, with a right to legal defence and to
participate in legal proceedings that affect him or her?

(98/C 310/141) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0624/98

by Angela Billingham (PSE) to the Commission

(9 March 1998)

Subject: Plight of Guatemalan street children

Is the Commission aware of the continuing murders of street children in Guatemala? For instance, in two days
last autumn, thirteen youths were murdered on the streets. All of them had been shot through the head.

Could the European Commission confront the Guatemalan Government, requesting them to launch a formal
inquiry into the murders of these children and those murdered in similar circumstances?

Joint answer
to Written Questions E-0623/98 and E-0624/98
given by Mr Marı́n on behalf of the Commission

(17 April 1998)

The Commission thanks the Honourable Member for her interest in the problem of street children and, more
especially, the children’s code in force in Guatemala.

On the subject of this code and its successor (due to enter into force shortly), the Commission believes that the
government’s efforts to ensure actual and effective implementation need to be taken into account. To ensure the
new code is both applied properly and obeyed by the relevant bodies, the government has put in hand a number of
awareness campaigns, staff training courses and activities to prepare these bodies (legal institutions, the national
board for children and youth, and the social welfare secretariat).

On the subject of the children themselves, the Commission is fully aware of the abuses and ill-treatment they
suffer. This complex situation is known to be caused by social and economic factors (large-scale migration to the
capital, breakdown of the family unit, loss of cultural identity and a life without prospects) and the Commission
has been trying to tackle it with an ECU 2.5 million project that has been running since the start of the year.

The project, which has proved very effective, aims to give street children protection and direct assistance so they
can return to normal life. It also sets out to promote activities to keep children away from a life on the streets and
to strengthen the public institutions charged with protecting minors and putting child protection laws into effect
(‘secretarı́a de bienestar social’, juvenile court, human rights ombudsman).