Slovenia to get children's house

Ljubljana, 26 March - The National Assembly unanimously passed a bill on the protection of children in criminal procedures, setting up the country's first Barnahus for children. According to Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlovič, the house will provide full treatment to children involved in criminal procedures as victims, witnesses or perpetrators.

Photo: Dejan Mijović/STA

The bill introduces the internationally established Barnahus model that was first set up in Iceland and has been recognised as good practice by the Council of Europe.

Barnahus or Children's House is a special institute where children who are victims of sexual abuse or other criminal offences or have witnessed them are treated holistically. The hearing of the victim or witness is conducted in a separate room and recorded so that the child no longer has to give a number of statements to various experts.

According to the government, this will mitigate the child's struggles or victimisation in relevant procedures. The Barnahus would also provide psycho-social and crisis support to children and perform medical examinations.

Deputy groups mostly welcomed the bill, with some criticism coming only from the opposition National Party (SNS), which was bothered by the fact that the house would be located in Ljubljana or what the party sees as a step increasing centralisation.

Eva Irgl from the senior coalition Democrats (SDS) said experts had been calling for such a house for years to provide a safe environment for children who are in extremely difficult situations that can scar them for life.

Tina Heferle from the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) stressed that child protection must be constantly improved.

According to Mojca Žnidarič from the Modern Centre Party (SMC), the Barnahus will be designed in a way that will make children feel at home. It will not look like an official institution, she said.

Boštjan Koražija from the opposition Left expressed hope this was the first step towards a user-friendly state apparatus and a child-friendly justice system.

Predrag Baković from the opposition Social Democrats (SD) meanwhile urged all those in charge of staffing to pick as competent experts as possible to work at the house, including the head of the institution. The staff should also be offered constant training, he said.

Blaž Pavlin from New Slovenia (NSi) asserted that the project was conceived well, with the Justice Ministry building on best practices of other countries.

© STA, 2021