New report shines spotlight on invisible scandal of child justice in Africa




Addis Ababa, 8 May 2018.

A major new report aimed at galvanising action on children’s access to justice in Africa was launched today at ll a conference attended by  child rights experts, representatives of governments, policymakers, lawyers, academics and journalists.

Spotlighting the Invisible: Justice for Children in Africa reveals how thousands of children across the continent are denied access to justice and paints a distressing picture of discrimination, inadequate funding, poor training, unaccountable traditional justice systems and slow progress on children’s rights.

The Continental Conference on Access to Justice for Children in Africa – organised by Africa Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and Defence for Children International (DCI) – brings together some of the leading experts in the field. Over the next three days they aim to produce a Plan of Action to further improve children’s access to justice in Africa.

The report shines a spotlight on three key areas including the fundamental principles and standards of child-friendly justice; “informal justice mechanisms” – religious, traditional or community-based systems which operate outside the statutory legal framework; and certain groups of children who are more at risk including girls, children with disabilities, refugees and orphans.

“It is distressing that in 2018 African children are being let down by an unfair, inconsistent and     discriminatory justice system,” said Dr Assefa Bequele, ACPF’s Executive Director. “Despite some limited progress in recent years, we need urgent action to protect children, ban inhumane punishments and bring an end to the detention of children across the continent.”

“We call on governments to collaborate and consult with all those involved in children’s rights and the justice system across Africa to ensure all children have access to child-friendly justice,” said Alex Kamarotos, DCI’s Executive Director. “Access to justice is one of the fundamental human rights and the ability to access justice is a cornerstone for the protection of all children’s rights. Unfortunately, despite some limited progress in recent years, the right to access to justice remains one of the more neglected rights in Africa.”

The study also highlights the plight of thousands of children who are detained in prisons, detention centres, rehabilitation centres and other institutions across Africa. “Data on children in prisons is hard to come by, but the number of child prisoners is definitely in the thousands, and some statistical calculations suggest that it could be as high as 28,000,” said Dr Assefa. “In any case, whatever the numbers, no child should be kept in prison.”

“Detention is a clear violation of children’s rights standards, and our priority must be to put an end to this harmful practice,” said Kamarotos. “However, many more children are denied access to justice. Inhumane practices such as corporal punishment are still considered acceptable punishments in some countries in Africa, and even in the formal justice system, some children – especially girls, children with disabilities, trafficked children and orphans – risk torture, sexual abused and violence.”

Addressing African governments, Dr Assefa said “We can not wait for tomorrow. We need urgent action to protect children, ban inhumane punishments and bring an end to the deprivation of liberty of thousands of children across the continent. 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


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.

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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).

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