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AFGHANISTAN: Juvenile justice system lacks resources

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KABUL, 25 June 2008 (IRIN) – Shahla (not her real name), aged 14, fears the future: Her father has threatened to kill her when she is released from a juvenile centre in Herat Province, western Afghanistan.

“She was sentenced to one year in a reformatory because she escaped from home three months ago,” Hangama Anwary, a commissioner for children’s rights at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), said on 25 June.

Shahla did not like the fiancée chosen for her by her father and had no option but to leave home, according to the AIHRC.

“Child law does not consider escaping from home a crime, but in reality many girls and women, including children, are penalised,” Anwary told dozens of judges and prosecutors in Kabul at the launch of a report on the plight of children in juvenile centres.

The report entitled Justice for Children: The situation of children in conflict with the law in Afghanistan was produced by the AIHRC in cooperation with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and sheds light on a series of problems and shortcomings in the country’s juvenile justice system [http://www.aihrc.org.af/Juvenile_Detention_eng.pdf].

“Forty-eight percent of children reported being beaten during detention and 36 percent said they were ill-treated in police custody,” the report said.

“Fifty-eight percent of children reported falling ill during their detention,” it said.

“The situation of girls is usually much worse than boys, and in many provinces there are no separate detention centres for girls; they are mostly locked up with adult female prisoners,” the report said.

Juvenile centres lack funds

There are 501 children – 448 boys and 53 girls – in 30 juvenile centres across Afghanistan, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

“Most of them are accused of murder, theft, escaping from home, smuggling narcotics, sexual crimes and forgery,” said Deputy Justice Minister Abdul Qadir Adalatkhowa.

Almost all children in juvenile centres do not have access to proper education, vocational training, entertainment or other facilities which might promote their rehabilitation, the joint AIHRC/UNICEF report said.

Also, the food given to children in juvenile centres was very poor; recent food prices rises had further worsened their diet, commissioner Anwary said.

According to the Justice Ministry, which administers the juvenile centres, the government has earmarked only US$1 per day to cover the cost of keeping each child in a juvenile centre – including its food, education and health.

“Owing to the rise in food prices we have demanded that the per diem be increased from 50 Afghanis [US$1] to 70 Afghanis [$1.40],” Adalatkhowa said.

Dozens of children who are not accused of any wrongdoing also live in precarious conditions in Pul-e Charkhi jail, in Kabul, with their imprisoned mothers [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=74491].

Afghanistan has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and in 2005 enacted a national juvenile code, which is deemed to be compliant with international conventions.

However, the country needs more resources, improved capacity and technical assistance to implement its legal commitments, experts say.

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Written by afghandevnews

June 25, 2008 at 7:59 pm

Posted in Human Rights

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