DCI – Beijing Rules 1

Defence for Children International

Beijing Rules


The Beijing Rules, adopted by the United Nations in 1985,

provide guidance to States for the protection of children’s rights and respect

for their needs in the development of separate and specialised systems of

juvenile justice. Limited provisions concerning juvenile justice may be located

in regional human rights treaties and in the International Covenant on Civil and

Political Rights 1966. Similarly, the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for

the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted in 1955, set out certain basic requirements

for all prisoners but do not address specific issues in relation to young

offenders. The Beijing Rules were the first international legal instrument to

comprehensively detail norms for the administration of juvenile justice with a

child rights and development oriented approach. They were a direct response to a

call made by the Sixth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and

the Treatment of Offenders which convened in 1980.

The Rules operate within the framework of two other sets

of rules governing juvenile justice, both adopted in 1990: The United Nations

Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (the Riyadh Guidelines)

and the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their

Liberty (the JDL Rules). These three sets of rules can be seen as guidance for a

three stage process: firstly, social policies to be applied to prevent and

protect young people from offending (the Riyadh Guidelines); secondly,

establishing a progressive justice system for young persons in conflict with the

law (the Beijing Rules); and finally, safeguarding fundamental rights and

establishing measures for social re-integration of young people once deprived ot

their liberty, whether in prison or other institutions (the JDL Rules).

Although the Beijing Rules predate the UN Convention on

the Rights of the Child 1989, several of the fundamental principles have been

incorporated into that Convention and they are expressly referred to in its


Status of the

Rules in International Law

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