For a number of African countries, ratification of the CRC and the ACRWC provided a climate within which to re-examine child-related laws. Thus statutory reforms on child law have been instituted in most African countries including in the area of child justice. While these reforms are taking place, it is important that child justice approaches comply with international standards. ACPF recognises the need for standardised operational tools and procedures in the area of child justice in Africa. For this reason, ACPF is carrying out a regional study on child justice, examining the extent to which international standards on child justice are applied in Africa. ACPF is also developing guidelines on child justice in Africa which will lay down the standards to take into account when dealing with children in contact with the law.

In addition, ACPF is documenting the plight of children in prisons in Africa to provide insight into the conditions under which they are held. The study, the guidelines and the documentary will all be presented at the Kampala Conference. Africa’s first global conference on child justice will be jointly organised by ACPF  and DCI in Kampala, Uganda from 7-8 November 2011. The conference aims at bringing to the attention of policy makers, child rights practitioners and other players, the gaps in local legislations, policies, structures, procedures and resources for the administration of child justice in Africa. The guidelines on child justice in Africa will be discussed at the conference and participants will be asked to adopt the guidelines before they can be presented to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the African Commission for endorsement and adoption.

 

Age of criminal responsibility (From the AWR)

 

Countries with a minimum age of criminal responsibility below 12 years of age

Namibia

7

Seychelles

7

Swaziland

7

Zimbabwe

7

Kenya

8

Zambia

8

Eritrea

9

Ethiopia

9

Cameroon

10

Côte d’Ivoire

10

Lesotho

10

Malawi

10

Somalia

10

South Africa

10

Tanzania

10

The 1989 United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the 1990 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) are the primary instruments that lay down the standards for child justice. According to General Comment No. 10 of the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of the Child, on Children’s Rights in Juvenile Justice (2007), the standards are entailed in the general principles and articles 37 and 40 of the CRC which provide for the treatment of children deprived of liberty and due process rights respectively. In terms of the ACRWC, the standards for the administration of child justice are found in article 17.  These two treaties impose an obligation on states, to adopt legislation and to formulate and implement other measures to realise children's rights. What then are the standards to be taken into account when developing a child justice system?  A good child justice policy takes into account the general principles (found in both treaties) namely, non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, the right to life, survival and development, and the right to be heard. Among other things, a good policy on child justice also includes provisions for measures for prevention of child delinquency, alternative interventions in terms of diversion and restorative justice, a high minimum age of criminal responsibility (no lower than 12 years according to Gen. Comment No. 10), children’s courts, guarantees for a fair trial (due process rights), and sentencing approaches which consider the age of the child and offence committed and where deprivation of liberty is a measure of last resort. In general the policy must focus on reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of the child into society and in that regard, there is a restorative justice agenda sweeping across Africa whose development preceded the international agenda for child justice.