The increasing rate of youths in conflict with the law after the war is alarming, and the legal process of arrest and detention in addition to the prevailing conditions in prison cells and remand homes is far below international standards. The deplorable state of the juvenile justice system has compelled the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) to launch the “Youth Justice in Action Campaign Report.”
The report, which was authored by the YMCA and Defence for Children International (DCI), does not only advocate for an improvement in the juvenile justice system, but also make recommendations that would ensure that juveniles shy away from crimes.
In her statement yesterday at the launching of the report at the YMCA at Fort Street, the chairperson of the launch, commissioner Human Rights Sierra Leone, Jamesina King described it “as timely.”
She explained that majority of Sierra Leone’s population fell within the youth age bracket, adding that as there had been an increase of youths in conflict with the law. “There is a need to address the situation urgently…,” she noted.
The chairperson explained that notwithstanding the deplorable state of the juvenile justice system, the country had made some gains.
She noted that, “finally parliament has enacted the Child Rights Act, and 14 years have been set as the minimal age of criminal responsibility.”
The human rights commissioner concluded that, “young people should be seen inside the fences of their schools, institutions and homes, but not behind bars.”
The Children Forum Network (CFN)’s representative heightened that youths had often forced by circumstances to have conflicts with the law.
He noted that youths should be cared for adding that, “a world without children is a world without future human existence.”
Peace and Conflict lecturer, George Williams explained that justice issues in a post-conflict state were thorning ones.
He emphasized that even though advocacy was on for the protection of youths in the juvenile justice system, “youths should be encouraged to shy away from crimes…”
In his PowerPoint presentation, Abdul Manaff Kemokai of Defence for Children International pointed out key areas in addressing juvenile delinquencies including the “prevention, diversion and age of criminal responsibility.”
Giving an overview of the report Mohamed Obi Sandy said that the report explored the public knowledge and perception of the judiciary process of youths in conflict with the laws.
On behalf of the Attorney General, Kekura Bangura said that he was thrilled by some of the issues heightened by previous speakers.
He added, “what we are witnessing today is a manifestation that youths in Sierra Leone are productive.”
Mr Bangura advised that the report should be a ‘must-read’ for stakeholders in the juvenile justice system.