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Justice delivery system letting down child complaints - Newsletter Issue 5
Justice for Children Trust
June 01, 2010

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A recent report by the Herald that some complainants had resorted to ferrying prisoners to the courts "after Zimbabwe Prison Service officials indicated they did not have the fuel to do the job" is very disturbing. The question that begs the answer, especially for those who are concerned with the rights and welfare of vulnerable members of society such as children, is 'what about child complainants?'

What is happening at the courts and prisons is reflective of the decay that has beset the justice delivery system. Courts can not function properly as the prison service fails to take prisoners remanded in custody to court for routine remands and trials. Whilst the prison service is to be applauded for calling on board other players such as the complainants to assist in carrying accused persons to court for trial, one wonders what happens to cases that involve children as complainants. Whilst one can argue that they have to rely on their parents and other caregivers, the same can not be said about most vulnerable children. These include orphans and those children whose rights would have been violated by caregivers. Such children rely on the state to take up the responsibility of ensuring the restoration of their violated rights. Sadly this does not happen if the state that is supposed to uphold the respect and protection of children's rights is found wanting. One can therefore safely conclude that the state further perpetrates abuse on an already abused child if it does not ensure the smooth running of the wheels of justice.

Failure to ferry prisoners to court results in injustice upon the abused child. If no prosecution takes place where a child's rights would have been violated, this results in gross injustice. The delay in prosecution that occurs as a result of a non-functioning prison system, results in delayed justice, which may greatly prejudice child complainants as children are prone to forgetting certain issues either as a defence mechanism or as a result of lapse of time. This may further result in mistrust of the justice delivery system as the last recourse for seeking justice. One can also not rule out issues of corruption where connivance between accused persons and certain incorrigible players may result in certain cases not being heard in court. The court may unfortunately fail to pick up such unfortunate goings on if prisoners fail to attend court for purposes of remand.

Justice for Children Trust calls on the government to urgently resolve the crisis that is hampering justice delivery. The government is reminded of its role in upholding the respect, protection and promotion of children's rights. The government is also reminded that children do not own resources and they rely on others to seek justice.

An abused child needs help. Reports that certain cases remain unresolved for as long as the prison service remains in dire need of vehicles do not help child victims at all as it is apparent that their cases may remain untried as a result. What is more disturbing is the report that the ZPS has in the past appealed for "more resources to properly run its operations". It seems as though their request has fallen on deaf ears. This is uncalled for in any society that respects human rights. The system should not further abuse by delaying prosecution and trails of all criminal cases as this prejudices, especially children.

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