Consultative Meeting Held for Child Justice

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By Lesley-Anne van Wyk WINDHOEK Namibia as a party to the international conventions on the rights of children is obliged to maintain a certain standard with regard to children who come into conflict with the law. The country has embraced the UN Convention as a law, or basically an Act of parliament. An Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) will for this reason take a careful approach to examining the Child Justice Bill by going through it clause by clause to allow for all representatives from the different ministries to propose their amendments to the current Bill. Yesterday, the Ministry of Justice, in accordance with the stipulated guidelines of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, held an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) meeting in Windhoek. Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Issaskar Ndjoze, said, “The implementation of the Child Justice Programme is important, relevant and continues to enjoy government’s prime attention.” However, he said, there was a ” … lack of technical assistance as the Ministry of Justice does not provide the budget for this programme, but depends on funds made available by donor agencies.” Yesterday marked the start of the two-day workshop, which aims to discuss the Child Justice Bill as a mechanism for implementing the provisions of the UN Convention. Another major focus of the workshop will be to deliberate on a plan of action with the view to implementing the Child Justice Programme at both district and national level. The programme entails that the provisions of the Child Justice Bill be scrutinized by the IMC with the purpose of making recommendations to the Permanent Secretaries of stakeholder ministries and to establish the structures for the Bill. The second key factor in the programme is the assessment of the children who come into conflict with the law. The component of the programme that relates to diversion is to “Keep children out of the criminal justice system at either pre- or post-trial stages” as specified by the deputy Permanent Secretary, also makes a difference to the success of the Child Justice Programme. He said an effective re-integration process must be developed and put into practice to prevent the diverted child from regressing to its former condition. Ndjoze emphasised that throughout the assessment, diversion and re-integration stages of the programme, a skilled force of multi-disciplined professionals is required for the Bill to be successfully implemented. Local and international NGO’s and donor organisations such as the Legal Assistance Centre, UNICEF and Austrian Development Co-operation have contributed to the drafting of the Bill and the realisation of the programme. This and past meetings have had as the main focus the impact on the responsibilities and functions of the various ministries involved in the implementation of the Bill.