Many children are detained in African prisons. The majority of these children are not housed in special youth or juvenile detention centres, but are incarcerated together with adults, often under very unfavourable conditions. Many children are detained for extended periods, pending trial, even for minor offences. This situation flies in the face of article 17 of the African Children’s Charter, which requires that criminal justice systems should provide special treatment to children consistent with their dignity and, in particular, should ensure that they are detained separately from adults. Children whose parents or primary caregivers are in conflict with the law in Africa are an invisible and often highly-vulnerable group whose rights and welfare can be gravely affected at every stage of their parent’s criminal proceedings and term of imprisonment.Article 30 of the African Children’s Charter aims at ensuring that children are not incarcerated with their mothers.
- The minimum age of criminal responsibility in all State parties is set at 12 years or above.
- A holistic juvenile justice system is in place, including a comprehensive law on juvenile justice, with provisions for diversion and efficient alternatives to the justice system.
- Children in conflict with the law are kept out of prison; alternatives such as mediation, diversion and alternative dispute resolution are developed.
- All State parties have developed and implemented crime prevention strategies for children.
- All justice proceedings concerning children avoid undue delay and postponement of proceedings is kept to a minimum.
- Where detention of children is used as last resort, institutions have their rehabilitation and reintegration as the main objective of all policies and processes from the moment the child arrives.
- Accurate evidence and data on the administration of criminal justice for children is collected and used to inform policy reform.
- The criminal justice system responds to the needs of child victims and witnesses of crime before, during and after trial.