27 July 2011: Third national conference on child justice held
LIVINGSTONE, Zambia, 27 July 2011 – Over 100 magistrates, police officers, social workers, and other stakeholders from all over the country gathered here last week to chart the way forward on child justice administration in Zambia. The theme of the conference was “Promoting Child Friendly Justice System in Zambia.”
Addressing the conference, Deputy Chief Justice, Hon Denis Chirwa, said children that come into conflict with the law need to be given special consideration that is different from the way adults are treated.
“The state is urged to create an effective operational juvenile justice system and to ensure that children are dealt with in a manner appropriate to their well-being and appropriate both to their circumstances and offences” said Justice Chirwa.
He said children must not be left with indelible marks from the prisons.
“Research shows that placing children in adult institutions accentuates criminal behavior after release … subjecting children who commit minor or petty offences to judicial criminal jurisdiction was self-destruction and self-defeating,” he said.
The deputy chief justice also called on parents to ensure that they take good care of the children for them to avoid committing crimes.
“Child justice is not only about the treatment of children in conflict with the law but also addressing the root causes of offending behaviour and measures to prevent such behavior. Child Justice therefore has two major strands: prevention and protection, and prevention starts with parents in homes,” he said.
Also speaking at the conference, the United Nations Children Fund Representative, Dr. Iyorlumun J. Uhaa, called for special for children who come into conflict with the law. He said the way children are treated by the national justice system is integral to the achievement of international standards regarding the rule of law.
“A child friendly justice system is one that guarantees the respect and effective implementation of all children’s rights. A justice system that is child friendly aims to restore to children their childhood, to help children receive justice, and to support those children that have erred to recognize their mistakes and get back to being productive and contributing members of the community,” he said.
Dr. Uhaa also called on Government to rise the age of criminal responsibility for children and also to reduce the length of pre-trial detention of children. He pledged UNICEF’s commitment to work with the Government to ensure that children who come into conflict with the law enjoy a process that is child friendly and that is based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
In Zambia coordination and monitoring of the child justice is done through the National Child Justice Forum under the judiciary. The National Child Justice Forum was constituted in 2000 and subsequently launched in 2001. The forum fosters inter-departmental and inter-sectoral cooperation among child justice stakeholders. The UNICEF Zambia Representative also visited the Katombora Reformatory School, about 30 kilometers from Livingstone, where he met with children who came into conflict with the law.
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