LRF PRESS STATEMENT ON THE DAY OF THE AFRICAN CHILD 2020

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LRF PRESS STATEMENT ON THE DAY OF THE AFRICAN CHILD 2020
The Legal Resources Foundation joins the rest of the world in commemorating the Day of the
African Child under the theme “Towards a Child Friendly Justice System in Africa”. This
theme resonates with the work of the LRF whose focus is facilitating access to justice for
marginalized and vulnerable groups who include children in conflict and in contact with the
law. This year Zimbabwe commemorates this day at a time when the country is witnessing
increased incidences of children who come in conflict with the law and have to interface with
the justice delivery system. It is key that the system takes into account the vulnerability of
children and it is designed to protect the rights of both children in contact and in conflict with
the law
Through its work the LRF has noted that a number of children in conflict with the law go
through the justice system without legal representation and are unaware of their rights. The
majority of these children come from very difficult socio-economic backgrounds. Some of the
children are subjected to pre-trial detention in circumstances where they are exposed to adult
offenders with the risk that they may be hardened in the process. A number of cases involving
some of the children take long to be resolved as they do not have birth certificates to prove
that they are juveniles. The organisation has also noted that some of the actors in the justice
system have not received comprehensive training in child sensitive approaches when
handling cases with the result that children’s rights are infringed as they go through the justice
delivery system
The experience of going through the justice system can be traumatic for both victims and
child offenders given the complexity of the law and the uncertainty that comes with the
outcome of legal proceedings particularly for children who may have committed crimes. A
child friendly justice system is key to alleviating the trauma and protecting the rights of
children.
The LRF applauds the government for putting in place the Pre-Trial Diversion programme
whose objective is to divert children who may have committed minor offences from the
criminal justice system. It is however important that this programme is well -resourced.
The LRF Calls upon the government to:
• Ensure that the justice system is in line with the fundamental elements of a child
friendly system which include(a) the principle of the best interest of the child, (b) the
principle of participation, (c) the principle of non-discrimination, and (d) the right to
life, survival and development
• Put in place measures which ensure that in practice detention of children is a measure
of last resort and that if they are detained, they are not detained with adults.
• Resource all Victim Friendly Units and institutions which handle children’s cases to
enable such institutions to deliver child friendly justice.

• Put in place programmes to build the capacity of all key justice sector institutions to
handle cases in a child friendly manner.
• Introduce programmes in schools to raise awareness among children of their rights as
well as the workings of the justice system to enable them to assert their rights when
they interface with the system.