CONTINENTAL CONFERENCE ON ACCESS TO JUSTICE FOR CHILDREN IN AFRICA – ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA MAY 8-10 2018
Addis Ababa, 3 May 2018.
Child Rights experts, representatives of governments, policymakers, lawyers, academics and journalists will converge on Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, next week [May 8-10] calling for action to improve access to justice for children in Africa.
The Continental Conference on Access to Justice for Children in Africa – organised by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and Defence for Children International (DCI) – will discuss and explore ways to ensure that children in Africa – especially the most vulnerable – get access to justice and are treated fairly and decently by the justice system. A new report from ACPF – to be launched at the conference – reveals many African countries lack specialised child justice systems.
“It is concerning that in 2018 children in Africa are still being let down by our justice systems,” said Dr Assefa Bequele, ACPF’s Executive Director. “All too often across Africa, children in need of protection or seeking to redeem their rights face immense challenges, not only in accessing justice systems, but also in getting effective remedies through these systems.”
Children’s rights campaigners and defenders estimate that thousands of children are held in prisons across the continent at any one time, with many more deprived of their liberty in detention centres, rehabilitation units or other such institutions. According to the report, girls, children with disabilities, children living on the streets and trafficked children are some of the most vulnerable groups of children within the justice system. They suffer discrimination and are often denied access to justice.
“The end result is that children fall back on systems that are closer, familiar and more accessible to them, which do not always deliver justice in their best interests,” said Dr Nkatha Murungi, the Head of ACPF’s Children and the Law Programme. “The widespread use of informal (traditional, religious and administrative) justice systems creates significant challenges in ensuring the protection of the best interests of children and their access to justice.” Dr Murungi called on African governments to ensure that these informal justice systems respect and apply the same international standards of children’s rights as the formal justice systems.
Without access to justice, it is difficult for children to enjoy their rights. “Despite the progress recorded in recent years, we still have some way to go,” said Alex Kamarotos, DCI’s Executive Director. “We need urgent action to protect children, especially addressing basic issues such as bringing an end to the detention of children. Detention is especially damaging for children’s physical and mental health and should be applied only as a last resort, and for the shortest possible time. Alternatives to the deprivation of liberty do exist and can be implemented, if there is political will.”
Addressing African governments, Dr Assefa said “We can not wait for tomorrow. We have to urgently implement existing laws and policies. We must ensure that the needs of vulnerable groups of children in access to justice are addressed and that traditional and religious systems deliver justice that protects all children. We have to act now. The future of our continent is dependent on the full realisation of the rights and wellbeing of our children today.”
About the conference: Spotlighting the Invisible: The Continental Conference on Access to Justice for Children is jointly organised by ACPF and DCI and is being held at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 8-10 May 2018. Media representatives are welcome to cover the conference and the launch of the new report. If you can not make it in person, you can follow @AfricanChildFrm and @DCIsecretariat using #ChildJusticeAfrica where we’ll post regular press releases and updates. For more information and to register go to https://www.childjusticeinafrica.info/
About ACPF: African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) is an independent, not-for-profit Pan-African centre of policy research and advocacy centre on the African child. It was established in 2003 out of concern about the situation of the African child and the need for Africans to recognise their responsibility to collectively ensure the realisation of all rights to all children.
More info at http://africanchildforum.org/
About DCI: Defence for Children International (DCI) is an independent non-governmental organisation set up during the International Year of the Child in 1979 to ensure on-going, practical, systematic and concerted international and national action specially directed towards promoting and protecting the rights of the child, as articulated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
More info at https://defenceforchildren.org/
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