Justice for Children
The law since 2001 provides that the minimum age for criminal legal action is 18. However, under the same law, children over 13 years, but below 18 years, may be prosecuted and convicted if it is decided that they acted with discernment.
Children are tried before courts for minors as follows:
Despite the existence of this provision, there are no juvenile courts outside of Bamako. In the rest of the country, children are tried by a judge who hears under-age cases.
The Child Protection Code within Malian law provides for legal mediation as an alternative to criminal prosecution of minors. It is a mechanism aimed at reconciliation between a child offender or his/her legal representative and the victim or his/her legal representative or claimants. Mediation seeks to curb the effects of criminal prosecutions, provide compensation for damage caused to the victim, end distress caused by the offense and contribute to rehabilitation of the offender. The mediation is based on one or more of the following alternative justice measures:
The Public Prosecutor, the child or victim, or their respective legal representative, may request mediation. As an alternative to imprisonment, Malian legislation provides for the following measures:
However, despite these protective provisions, in practice, justice for children in Mali is geared more towards prosecution and imprisonment of children than to the alternative measures. Indeed, a study conducted by CNDIFE (see above) showed that out of 923 children arrested in 2006 and 765 in 2007, only 39 and 29 respectively (a total of 68 over the 2 years) benefited from the alternative measures to prosecution and/or imprisonment. Furthermore, the same study showed that, despite its importance, post-prison follow-up of minors is undertaken in only 5 of 54 institutions. It is clear from these findings that juvenile justice in Mali is still more geared towards punishment of children than to their rehabilitation.