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Spotlighting the Invisible - Justice for children in Africa

Author: ACPF
Document Type: Reports
Document Abstract:


This publication is prepared both to advance our knowledge of the important but complex subject of child Justice in Africa and to inform the discussions at the 2nd Global Conference on Child Justice in Africa to be held in Addis Ababa in May 2018. This conference, organised by the African Child Policy forum (ACPF) and Defence for Children International (DCI) is a follow-up to the first such conference that took place in Kampala, Uganda, in November 2011. That conference resulted in the African Guidelines on Action for Children in Justice Systems in Africa which were endorsed by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child at its March 2012 meeting. ACPF also published a continental study on children and justice systems in that year.

The current study updates and extends that earlier study, seeking to examine the progress that has been made, and the challenges that remain, since the 2011 conference in achieving child friendly justice in African justice systems. Given that children come in contact with justice system in different ways – through the formal and informal justice systems, in religious justice systems in some parts of the continent, and in both the criminal and civil justice systems – this study charts the continuum of experiences that children undergo in their contact with these systems.

The situations in which children are involved in the justice system fall into four categories: the criminal justice system (when in conflict with the law or as victims and witnesses); the civil justice system (such as when they are in need of care and protection, or during judicial review of removal or placement; in custody and access disputes; in guardianship issues; and as unaccompanied or separated foreign children); the administrative justice system (such as school disciplinary proceedings and aspects the alternative care and; and through the customary /traditional through mechanisms of justice.

Using that fourfold framework and focusing on marginalised groups and their access to justice systems, this study provides information on law reform, case law and good practices with regard to children in the justice system from a range of African countries. It draws on field studies that were conducted in seven such countries (Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Tunisia) and on key informant interviews, especially with regard to southern and eastern Africa.

In order to highlight the benchmark standards for a rights-based assessment of child-friendly justice in Africa, the study also discusses the fundamental principles (such as the best interests of the child, dignity, non-discrimination, and the rule of law) and general elements of a child-friendly justice system (for example, information and advice, protection of privacy, special preventive measures, and training of professionals), as envisaged in international and regional instruments that deal with children in the justice system.

This study provides substantive information that will serve as a useful tool for advocacy on, research into, and practical implementation of the laws, policies and standards for dealing with children in the justice system. In this regard, it brings to the fore areas of concern where improvements are required. Furthermore, based on discussions at a validation workshop held in Addis Ababa on 13 and 14 March 2018, the study identifies future areas of research and interventions that could be pursued with the aim of securing children’s rights in Africa.

Assefa Bequele PhD
Executive Director, ACPF

Available in English and in French.

Focus Country: Africa
Language: English
Spotlighting the Invisible - Justice for children in Africa Final.pdf
Spotlighting the Invisible - Justice for children in Africa Final.pdf
Date added: 2018-05-24 06:08:57    Hits: 821

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