KIGALI, RWANDA, July 27 2009 - As part of a new initiative launched by the Ministry of Justice, supported by UNICEF and the Dutch Government, more than 600 children in prisons throughout the country, will finally have a fair legal hearing this week.
“These children have been in prison without trial and I would like to appreciate the efforts of the Government of Rwanda for inaugurating a week to ensure that the rights of these children are met,” said Dr. Joseph Foumbi, Representative of UNICEF in Rwanda.
This mass event, which will provide access to legal aid for children and other vulnerable group, was officially launched as Legal Aid Week by the Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama, in the presence of high level government officials, partners and civil society groups.
During this week, Rwandan courts, parquets, the national police, the Bar Association and the Legal Aid Forum will work in tandem with prison officers to clear the backlog of children’s cases around the country. They will also conduct a survey of minors and conditions in prisons as well as provide information briefings to targeted rural areas.
“This week is an important step to realizing justice for children in conflict with the law,” explained Dr. Foumbi. “This is why we would like to acknowledge the progress that has been made on the long awaited Legal Aid Law, which has now been approved by the lower chamber of Parliament and would create a fund to cover legal aid costs associated with trying cases of vulnerable people, including children. However, we must also work together to ensure that there are alternative corrective measures for children in conflict with the law, other than prison.”
Rwanda has made significant progress in realizing the rights of children and women, however challenges remain. While there is no data on awareness of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the UN in Rwanda is working closely with the Government and its partners to ensure that capacity is built, particularly amongst police officers, lawyers and judges, in this area as well as in relation to juvenile justice.
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