30 June, 2011

Federal Ombudsperson stresses for child friendly laws

Sana Jamal

Islamabad – Musarrat Hilali, federal ombudsperson for protection against harassment of women has urged on Wednesday that “justice for all children needs to be ensured through child friendly laws, rules and regulations, implementation procedures and mechanisms promulgated by the government.”
Speaking at a ‘Dissemination workshop on Juvenile Justice Reforms in Pakistan’ she added that “issues of children survival, protection and development have gradually come to be acknowledged as one of the core issues facing the nation.

The workshop was organized by Federal Children’s Complaint Office (CCO) in collaboration with UNICEF to present the proposed amendments in the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO), 2000 and to present proposed diversion and rehabilitation guidelines in the Pakistani context. JJSO, which is considered one of the best laws, was promulgated in the year 2000 to provide protection to children in custody. However, disappointingly, the law was never implemented in letter and spirit and hence remained part of documents only, lamented the key speakers.

Experts say that, the use of custodial sentences are one the most serious offence, however, the fact remains that children continue to be locked away in jails in Pakistan. Friends of children believe that the process of arrest, trial and custody destroy their childhood and also deny them right to education, protection, care, family life.

Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Advocate Supreme Court presented the proposed amendments which included topics such as definition of a child, determination of age of child, legal assistance, juvenile courts, release of a child on bail, probation officer, and order for release, punishment for defective investigation.

Due to inefficacy of JJSO, Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan with support of UNICEF formed a Juvenile Justice Reform Project (JJRP) which comprised of members from government, police, probation, prison, judiciary and civil society. The project is aimed at reviewing JJSO so that legal recourse could be recommended for facilitating Restorative Justice for juveniles.

Syed Khizar Shah, Deputy Director of Human Rights, Peshawar recommended that for “system building with joint efforts of police, prosecution, courts and a wider range of community and residential provision for a proper rehabilitation of these children.”

Sohail Abbasi, Child Protection Specialist of UNICEF said that “workshop is part of a process in which all the stakeholders including government, police, judiciary and civil society have to work in collaboration.”
The police officials at the meeting urged that explanatory copy of law in local languages should be provided to regional police stations. The participants agreed that there is a dire need to sensitize and train the police personnel with regard to child rights.