Justice for Juveniles Project 2017
The German Embassy in Lusaka has funded the “Justice for Juveniles Project 2017” by the Undikumbukire Project Zambia (UP Zambia) through its Human Rights Support Scheme. This innovative initiative is seeking to support juveniles in conflict with the law through legal representation, social support and advocacy to promote an effective and just juvenile justice system in Zambia.
Enlarge image Juveniles (© UP Zambia) In September 2017 for example, there were 608 Juveniles in custody at this particular point in time (303 on remand and 305 on detention orders), of which more than 99% were males. Although, according to the law, juveniles are to be kept separate from adult detainees, the lack of resources and massive overcrowding in Zambian correctional facilities makes separation of juveniles and adults impossible or inhumane. Zambia correctional facilities have a current capacity of 8,500, whereas the total number of inmates amounts to 21,000 resulting in dire conditions within the facilities. This is in line with the assessment by the Zambian Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) submitted to the UN Human Rights Council during the Universal Periodic Review of Zambia in November this year, which expressed concern “that detention facilities continued to be characterized by problems of overcrowding, poor sanitation, lack of meaningful separation of juveniles from adults, impoverished holding facilities for women, poor health and medical care including pre-natal and post-natal services, poor welfare services for circumstantial children, among other things”. Furthermore, many juveniles report abusive treatment by the police.
Enlarge image Juvenile Court Magistrate, Hon. Irene Wishimanga (© UP Zambia) The shortage of lawyers with on average only one for every 500,000 people constitutes a considerable barrier to access legal guidance and representation in Zambia. UP Zambia set out to address these issues through advocacy work, by providing legal assistance, educational material and guidance through the respective court proceedings. It has established fruitful working relations with the juvenile courts, whose magistrates highly appreciate the contributions of UP Zambia to ensure appropriate court proceedings for the juveniles. Over the course of the “Justice for Juveniles Project 2017”, UP Zambia has so far assisted in over 300 cases in the Lusaka Juvenile Courts and expects the number to reach 400 by the end of the project.
Enlarge image Director of UP Zambia and Juveniles (© UP Zambia) During his opening remarks at the “Justice for Juveniles – One Day Freedom Event”, German Ambassador Achim Burkart highlighted: “This has been the first holistic project that follows a juvenile’s case from their first appearance in court all the way through to post-release. All activities were carried out through UP Zambia with participation from local law schools, the Legal Aid Board, the Law Association of Zambia, and the Lusaka juvenile courts. […]The German Embassy is very pleased about the extraordinary cooperation of all players in the judicial system that made this project a success. The hard work of the team of UP Zambia is to be commended”.