The Invisible

Continental Conference on Access to Justice for Children in Africa
Addis Ababa | 8-10 May 2018
Download Conference Report
More than 28,000 children in Africa are being
deprived of their liberty. Join us in addressing one of the
continent’s most hidden human rights issues.
Help us bring justice for children in africa
Across Africa, up to 28,000 children are being detained (or deprived of liberty), where they are subject to other inhumane punishments. Many more – including migrant, asylum-seeking refugee children, orphans and victims of trafficking – are being unfairly detained and let down every day by a discriminatory and dysfunctional judicial system.

We need to act now to bring an end to this concerning treatment.

In our new report – Spotlighting the Invisible: Justice for Children in Africa – we shine a light on the problem and reveal how many African countries lack specialised child justice systems.

This report, commissioned in partnership with Defence for Children International (DCI), will be the focus of our Continental Conference on Access to Justice for Children in Africa, from 8 to 10 May in Addis Ababa.
Here, children’s rights campaigners and defenders, lawyers, academics, journalists, heads of state, policy-makers and law-makers are coming together to discuss how we can improve access to justice and ensure children are better protected.

There will be presentations, panel discussions and opportunities to share knowledge with key stakeholders. Our report will be available during and after the conference, and will feed into the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of their Liberty.

Media representatives are welcome to cover the conference and the report’s launch. Please join us in calling for action on this long under-reported human rights issue.
Follow the conference, and the launch of our report on the lack of access to justice for children in Africa, on our Twitter feed

@AfricanChildFrm @DCIsecretariat using #ChildJusticeAfrica


Addressing the Issues
Provide access to justice for all

Provide access to justice for all

Despite some progress, hundreds of thousands of African children are still being denied access to justice. It’s one of the most neglected human rights on the continent, and should be priority issue for African governments. 

Many countries lack specialised child justice systems, while organisations providing legal aid for children are facing significant funding cuts.

Ban inhumane treatment & punishments

Ban inhumane treatment & punishments

It’s estimated that up to 28,000 children are imprisoned, with many more held in detention centres, rehabilitation units or other institutions at any given time. International standards rule that children should only be detained as a last resort, and for the shortest possible time.

While detained, children are at risk of being tortured, beaten and sexually abused by guards and adult inmates.

They may also be subject to corporal punishment and other inhumane practices. These practices must be outlawed immediately; and where they’re already illegal, the law must be enforced.

Detention hits children’s physical and mental health disproportionately hard, while torture, sexual abuse and ill-treatment by guards and other inmates is an ever-present threat.

Alex Kamarotos, Executive Director of Defence for Children International (DCI)

Enforce child-friendly justice

Enforce child-friendly justice

Child-friendly justice must be based on international fundamental principles and standards. It means protecting the child best interests through an appropriate process, which doesn’t discriminate on grounds of gender, race, religion or ability.

People working with children in the justice system need to be better trained and able to treat different age groups appropriately.
Address informal justice

Address informal justice

The use of “informal justice” – traditional, religious, ethnic or community-based customs – presents big challenges in protecting children. While positive elements of these systems must not be disregarded, they must be regulated so they follow the same international children’s rights standards as their formal counterparts.

Much more research is needed to understand the role and impact of informal justice on children. This will help to identify and build on its positive aspects, while addressing negative effects on children’s rights and welfare.
Protect vulnerable children

Protect vulnerable children

Governments need to do more to establish the necessary support systems for vulnerable children –such as girls, orphans, refugees, or those who have disabilities or have been accused of witchcraft.

These groups are at more risk of suffering abuse – as are children from rural areas who are detained far from their communities. They all must have better access to specialised children’s courts.

We call for better protection and the best possible access to justice for orphans who come into contact with the law, to avoid them being locked up because they don’t have an adult guardian.

Dr. Assefa Bequele, Executive Director of the Africa Child Policy Forum (ACPF)


Our report - Spotlighting the invisible: Justice for Children in Africa – makes a series of recommendations ranging from developing specialised child-friendly units and court facilities to better training for law enforcement officers.

We are calling on governments to work with stakeholders to pass these recommendations into law and enforce them at all levels.

M E D I A  E N Q U I R I E S
Martin Atkin
Communications Consultant
Tel: +44(0)779 544 3607
G E N E R A L  E N Q U I R I E S
Nkatha Murungi PhD
Head, Children and the Law Programme, ACPF
Tel: +251 11 662 8192/96/97/99

Alex Kamarotos
Executive Director, DCI
Tel: +41 (0)22 734 05 58
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