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City of Banjul
Monday, September 21, 2020

IACR to support children in conflict with the law

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In an exclusive interview with The Standard, barrister Malick Jallow said: “I think a child getting into conflict with the law is a major challenge. Such children are often deprived of the time and focus they need to develop themselves. Their best interests are therefore compromised. Essentally, at the IACR, we believe helping children stay clear of conflict with the law is a useful way of helping them grow into responsible members of society. Indeed, despite our short existence, IACR has already undertaken several activities towards this direction including sensitisation workshops for school children on the Children’s Act of 2005, outreach initiatives at the Juvenile Prisons in Jeshwang and radio sensitisation on the legal framework on the right to education in The Gambia. IACR is also actively reaching out to key stakeholders in the juvenile justice system for appropriate partnership and collaboration. We believe promoting and protecting children’s rights cannot be the work of a single institution or organisation. It requires collective efforts on the part of key stakeholders including the government to ensure that important commitments, at the national, regional and international levels are fully implemented in a timely and effective manner.”

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Dilating on the mandate of the institute, Mr Jallow enunciated: “IACR is a non-governmental, non-profit, impartial and non-partisan organisation with a mandate to promote and protect the rights of children in The Gambia through the provision of pro-bono legal services to indigent children in conflict with the law. The institute also seeks to help build a preventive strategy to address the root causes to why such children get into conflict with the law. Through its work, the institute aims to improve the effectiveness and implementation of domestic, African and international human rights instruments on the rights of children, including the Children’s Act of The Gambia 2005, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). 

“We often say that children are the future leaders of tomorrow. I do believe we can do more to prepare them for that future. I had extensively interacted with the juvenile justice system including as a prosecutor at the Attorney General’s Chambers and as a trial monitor for the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA). I also served as chairperson of a task force on juvenile justice in The Gambia. During these engagements, I was touched by the fact that a lot of the children in conflict with the law did not have the financial wherewithal to gain access to quality legal services. As a result a lot of them languished in remand for an indeterminate period of time as the Children’s Act of The Gambia 2005 makes it mandatory for such children to be represented by a lawyer. The National Agency for Legal Aid (Nala) has done important work in this regard but it has a very broad mandate and will certainly benefit from having an institution to share in its work of providing legal aid to all including indigent children in conflict with the law. It is indeed interesting that there is no non-governmental organization in The Gambia focusing solely on the juvenile justice system. It is also an observation of mine that key stakeholders in the juvenile justice system are not thoroughly grounded on the key legal instruments and jurisprudence governing juvenile justice and children’s rights in general, particularly at the regional and international level. As a result, secondary victimisation of children who come into conflict with the law, in The Gambia, is quite a reality.”

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