PRESS STATEMENT #02/2014
For immediate release
Freetown, Sierra Leone
07 February 2014
The national 2007 Child Rights Act of Sierra Leone provides that any person of 14 years of age or above may be subject to and held accountable under the rule of law for committing an offence. This means that even children between the ages of 14 and 18 years can face judicial proceedings when they are suspected of having committed an offence either alone or in a group. However, there are standards and procedures that guide and regulate the process of investigations and trials of children below 18 years of age: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its General Comments No. 10; the UN Guidelines for the Administration of Juvenile Justice; and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child all put emphasis not only on adherence to the due process of the law, but that trial and detention of children be a measure of last resort and for the shortest period of time possible.
Defence for Children International – Sierra Leone (DCI – SL) notes that the juvenile justice system in Sierra Leone is not adhering to basic standards and respecting fundamental human rights. Many children are spending far longer time in pre-trial detention than necessary. One of the worse cases DCI-SL is currently working on involves a boy who since August 2010 remains in pre-trial detention at the Freetown Remand Home. Several other children have spent over a year in pre-trial detention and their cases are not making much progress. The most serious issue with these cases is that, following preliminary investigations, they have been handed over to the High Court by the various Magistrate Courts and their indictments have not yet been issued. As a result, their cases are not progressing and these children remain in detention. Sometimes their frustrations push them to misbehave at the Remand Home and when this happens, those involved are usually transferred to the Pademba Road Prison (where children are not separated from adult detainees) so that they will not ‘contaminate’ or ‘instigate’ other young inmates. In 2013, four Remand Home inmates were transferred to Pademba Road Prison by the Court for misbehavior; these children are still at Pademba Road Prison.