ZAMBIA: Detention facilities for juveniles inadequate, says judge Kabuka

Summary: High Court judge-in-charge Jane Kabuka says the history of the country's administration of the criminal justice system concerning children falls short of addressing their best interests.

Speaking when she officiated at the training of magistrates in administration of justice for children in Lusaka on Tuesday, judge Kabuka said the country's three main detention facilities for juveniles have proved to be inadequate to meet the demand.

She said when dealing with children's cases, whilst not compromising justice for the victim, there was need to ensure the child offender is treated in a way which will not curtail its childhood.

Judge Kabuka said other than ensuring that the court environment is conducive to meet the desired objectives, juvenile cases needed to be handled in a restorative way to ensure the child's best interest and basic human dignity is retained.

Judge Kabuka further said emphasis was now being placed on restorative non-custodial forms of punishment for petty offences and simple misdemeanours as an alternative for juvenile offenders.

And UNICEF representative Dr Iyorlumun Uhaa, in a speech read for him by chief of child protection Amanda Bissex, said the way children are treated by the national justice system is integral to the achievement of international standards of the rule of law.

Dr Uhaa said UNICEF recognises the importance of the rule of law and a functioning justice system in reducing poverty as well as promoting peace, security and human rights.

He said a child-friendly justice system is one that guarantees the respect and effective implementation of all children's rights.

"In particular, a child friendly justice system gives due consideration to the child's circumstances, that is accessible, age appropriate, speedy, adapted to and responsive to the needs of the child and provides respect to privacy, integrity and dignity of the child," he said.

Dr Uhaa told magistrates that their role in the children's justice system has a deep and long term impact on those that appear before them in the courts of law, especially children.

He also said a child's individual experience in the justice system, whether appearing in a court as a victim of a crime, a witness or an alleged offender, would greatly affect their overall attitude towards justice.

Dr Uhaa added that the best interests of the child on their rights could only be achieved if children are given the possibility to express their views in the justice system.

"It is critical that children have the confidence and opportunity to express their views and that these views are given due consideration," he said.

Dr Uhaa has also assured the Judiciary of UNICEF's commitment to working towards achieving a child-friendly justice system for all children in the country.

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