‘Child Justice Bill falls short of international standards’

The draft Child Justice Bill, which seeks to establish a distinct criminal justice system for children, does not meet international standards by failing to provide for compulsory provision of legal assistance for children, a children’s rights organisation has said.

BY FARAI MATIASHE

During his recent State of the Nation Address, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said one of the first Bills to appear before the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament would be the Child Justice Bill.

The draft Bill, which was released recently by the Justice ministry and yet to be gazetted, is going to consolidate existing child protection instruments, including the Children Act (Chapter 5.06), Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (Chapter 9.07) and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9.24).

Speaking at a panel discussion on the draft Child Justice Bill convened by Justice for Children in Harare yesterday, the organisation’s children’s rights lawyer Musa Kika said the draft Bill fails to provide the right for the children in conflict with the law to unqualified legal representation.

“The Bill marks significant progress in the treatment of children in conflict with the law. By and large the best interest of the child principle is upheld. However, the Bill is fraught with some glaring inconsistences, omissions and shortcomings in meeting international law stipulations and standards in child justice as provided for in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) and the Beijing rules, such as compulsory provision of legal assistance,” he said.

“The Bill provides that in certain cases a child may be provided legal representation at the State’s expense, effectively regurgitating the position of the Constitution in Section 70 (1) (d). The Bill does not provide for an unqualified right to legal representation for all children in conflict with the law at all times, as required by Article 40 (2) (b) (ii) of the UNCRC and Article 17 (2) (c) (ii) of the ACWRC.”

Kika said the international standards on children’s rights require children in conflict with the law to be protected from members of the Press, but the daft Child Justice Bill was silent on that.

“Clause 81 on privacy and confidentiality does not carry an express prohibition of the Press in court proceedings involving child offenders or child witnesses, as required by ACRWC,” he said.

Source :

NewsDay

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