Civil society organisations (CSOs) have hailed a recent High Court ruling directing that all children pending trial at Kachere and Bvumbwe prisons should be sent to safety homes.
The ruling, by High Court Judge Sylvester Kalembera on Tuesday this week, follows an appeal that the children, through their lawyer Fostino Maele, made for the court to review their detention to the two prisons, in which they expressed dissatisfaction on the committal.
In their five-fold grounds of review to the court, the children questioned of their detention at the two prisons before a liability was found against them, orders of detaining them before a finding against them, and the propriety of second and third grade magistrate’s courts assuming jurisdiction over cases of children in conflict with the law.
The children also argued of propriety of using warrants and commitment under Section 329 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code in cases involving children and orders remanding children under Section 250 and 265 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code.
In a joint statement issued on Thursday by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (Salc), Centre for Human Rights, Education, Advice and Assistance (Chreaa) and Youth Watch Society, the CSOs describe the ruling as one that will have a positive impact on the fate of children who are in conflict with the law in the country.
In the statement, Chreaa executive director Victor Mhango noted that the ruling is an encouragement as it has declared that failure to follow the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act is unlawful.
“The Child Care, Protection and Justice Act has been in place since 2010, yet some of its most critical provisions around child justice are not consistently implemented,” he said.
The Act was enacted to consolidate the law relating to children by making provisions for child justice and for matters of social development of the child and for connected matters.
On his part, Kalembera observed that it is improper to detain children at the two prisons before a finding against them as the two institutions are not reformatory centres.
He also noted that second and third grade magistrates have no jurisdiction over child justice courts unless designated by the Chief Justice through a notice published in the Gazette.
The judge then ordered that all detained children at the two prisons pending trial and whom the courts have not found any liabilities against should be transferred to safety homes within 30 days from Tuesday this week.
For children at the prisons with a liability against them, Kalembera ordered that they be transferred to reformatory centres.