"It is the responsibility of every government to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizenry and to ensure that the rule of law and justice prevails at all times. Hovewer, children accused of committing crimes are more susceptible to human rights abuses and violations of their legal rights while in detention, either in police cells, prisons or authorised detention centres. They mostly suffer from both the agents of the state as well as from inmates. These violations often take place [behind] closed doors, and society being primarily concerned with keeping offenders locked up rather than about their conditions and human rights being respected, the cries of these children to be treated with dignity and worth go unnoticed despite the constitutional and international guarantee of their rights. The problem therefore is first to examine what rights do children in trouble with the law have under international law in general and specifically within the African human rights sytem with special emphasiis on the rights of children deprived of their liberty. Secondly, to examine how these international instruments are given effect domestically and whether there are challenges encountered in realising these rights. These are the main issues that this research intends to grapple with using South Africa and the Gambia as case studies with a view to making recommendations for better protection of the rights of this category of children. ... This research consist of four chapters. The first chapter is the introduction. It will give the basis and structure of the research which will include a general overview of the problem in the two countries under study. In the second chapter, it will explore the relevant international and African normative framework that protects the rights of children in trouble with the law and the obligations of states towards these children. However, the main focus will be the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), because they are the two main human rights instruments providing specific protection for children's rights in all spheres. The third chapter will be a comparative analysis of the rights of children deprived of their liberty as provided in the municipal laws of South African and the Gambia vis a vis the minimum standards set [out] in the CRC and ACRWC. It will discuss the following issues, namely: defintion of a child, age of criminal responsibility, the best interest, detention as a last resort and for the shortest possible time, separation from adult detainees, role of parents, establishment of separate criminal procedures, right to legal respresentation and assistance, and sentencing options. It will also examine the problems and challenges for implementation. The fourth chapter will conclude and make recommendations on how best to implement the laws and who should be the role players in ensuring that the rights of these children are well protected." -- Introduction.
Thesis (LLM (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa)) -- University of Pretoria, 2005.
Prepared under the supervision of Professor Gilles Cistac at the Faculty of Law, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo, Mocambique
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