AFRICA: Kampala Conference - Deprivation of Liberty as a Last Resort

Summary: Since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Africa has witnessed unprecedented developments in child law, practice and policy as well as in the field of Juvenile Justice. However there is still much to be done to improve laws, and procedures and their implementation in the justice system in Africa when it deals with children.

This was the overall aim of the Kampala Conference on “Deprivation of Children’s Liberty as a Last Resort”, held in November 2011 and organised by Defence for Children International (DCI) and The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF). The Conference was attended by representatives of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the African Union, UN agencies, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, governments, CSOs, INGOs, and other experts from all over Africa and other parts of the world. The International Juvenile Justice Observatory was invited to take part at this Conference and to make a presentation on “International policies and standards in juvenile justice”

In particular, the Conference aimed at raising awareness on the gaps in the child justice system in Africa among policy makers, academia, and other relevant stakeholders. The objective was to identify and share good practice models and concrete actions in the justice system when it deals with children and promotion of learning and linking among African states. Besides, the purpose of the meeting was to ensure the follow up of the Guidelines on Child friendly justice in Africa, which have been drafted by Prof. Julia Sloth, and to promote their enforcement by African States.

With regard to this last point, the IJJO made an interesting presentation on how NGOs / third sector can contribute to promote international policies and standards on juvenile justice at regional level. In particular, the IJJO shared its experience in advocating during the drafting process of the elaboration of Council of Europe Guidelines of Child-Friendly Justice. The IJJO also presented its future developments in Africa, in particular the establishment of the Council for Juvenile Justice, as it has been done in Europe, for instance.

During the Conference, the experts also tackled other important issues such as diversion and restorative justice as alternatives to deprivation of liberty; harmonisation of laws Africa and Children’s legal protection in Africa. The Conference ended up with the adoption of the Munyonyo Declaration.

The Munyonyo Declaration recognizes that protecting children’s rights is a challenging issue in Africa. It also highlights that Justice Systems are complex in the region. Informal and formal justices are mixed with customary laws, legislation derived from colonial laws and, in some countries, with religious systems. It is therefore important that cooperative and mutually supportive relationships are developed across all sectors and disciplines working in the field of child justice. The Declaration calls for action to all actors to ensure that all children enjoy their rights in child justice and that deprivation of liberty is used as measure of last resort. It also gives specific recommendations to the African Union, governments, UN bodies and agencies, NGOs, community and religious leaders and media.



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