Gambia Judicial Training and Research Institute, in collaboration with United
Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), recently organised two-day training workshop
for magistrates on the juvenile justice system, at the Sunset Beach Hotel, Kotu
The objective of the workshop was to strengthen the institutional system of juvenile justice and promote respect for the fundamental rights of children in conflict or contact with the law by encouraging implementation of legal instruments ratified by The Gambia.
It was also to provide first-hand knowledge to legal professionals and magistrates on justice for children and its different principles, approaches and dimensions.
The president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Awa Bah, who gave welcoming remarks, said the aim of the workshop was to share knowledge on the juvenile justice system in terms of guiding principles, approaches and dimensions and to better equip the participants to better understand and promote respect for the fundamental rights of children.
She stressed that the children under this system do not mean the children in conflict with the law but also child witnesses and victims as well as other vulnerable ones, hence the diverse stakeholders in the juvenile justice system
The objective of punishment such as prevention, detention, deterrence and retribution must give way to restoration and reintegration due to their different developmental statuses.
Restoration or reintegration is the aim of all juvenile justice systems or interventions of the child in conflict with the law; this is, as required by article 40 sub 1 of the convention on the rights of the child.
According to her, the objective should be the alternate goal throughout the process from first contact with law enforcement officers to the implementation of any measures against such a child.
She added that in order to achieve this objective, the range of option or services such as probation, education and training programs should be made available.
She concluded that the workshop was vital in identifying the gaps and challenges, learning best practices and a need for more concerted effort by all stakeholders.
UNICEF representative, Rupert Leighton, said that UNICEF was proud to support such workshop, which aims to provide resources for legal professionals on justice for children.
He said the workshop would help to brainstorm on the type of security protection, confidential measures and procedures that should be put in place to protect the children in The Gambia and move towards more compliance with the convention on the rights of the children.
According to him, UNICEF was fully committed to supporting children in The Gambia and improving the juvenile justice system.
Hussin Thomasi, who represented the Attorney General, said that the rights and principles governing juvenile justice has been well established on International Conventions such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
These entire international legal tests are geared towards the protection on juvenile justice and the best interest of the child, he said.
Hon. Justice Gibou Semega Janneh of the Gambia Supreme Court enlightened them on the crucial role of the justice system on children when in conflict or contact with the law.
Hon. Janneh said that children should not be put in the same place as convicted adults, adding that some principles must be set down as to how children would be channeled and protected without doing ever lasting damage to their upbringing and development.