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Absurd decision

Jun 29,2014 - Last updated at Jun 29,2014

The Lower House of Parliament’s decision to lower the age of criminal responsibility for children from twelve to seven years is shocking.

The draft laws just adopted by the deputies aiming to make children as young as seven criminally accountable for their actions show that either the MPs are not aware of the various international norms regarding this issue, which are legally binding on Jordan, or are simply insensitive to the limitations on a child’s capacity to make a distinction between right and wrong.

Sub-paragraph 3(a) of Article 40 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child does indeed stipulate that state parties shall establish “the minimum age below which children shall be presumed not to have the capacity to infringe the penal law”, but this prerogative is not absolute.

This provision must be read in conjunction with the other provisions of the convention, which recognise that children, especially those below the age of 12, are among the most vulnerable groups of people and require special care.

Besides, common sense dictates that no child as young as seven can be truly held accountable for a “crime” in the full sense of the word.

When such very young children do commit a mischief or an offence, that is nearly always the product of social ills and deprivations in their lives, over which they have no control.

The Upper House of Parliament will still have to pronounce on the draft legislation.

It is hoped that the senators will manifest a higher degree of appreciation and knowledge of the rights of the very young children and reject the proposed minimum age for criminal responsibility.

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