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Sentencing of Children in Conflict with the Law

The Honourable Minister of Justice, Mr. Mulambo Haimbe, SC, MP, presented a significant ministerial statement through Her Honour the Vice President, Madam Mutale Nalumango, on February 28th, 2024, addressing the principles guiding the sentencing of children in conflict with the law.

In his statement, Minister Haimbe emphasized the government’s steadfast commitment to justice principles outlined in domestic legislation and international agreements, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of a Child.

He highlighted the enactment of the Children’s Code Act, No. 12 of 2022, aimed at protecting children and ensuring access to justice.

The Minister acknowledged the complexities involved when children commit serious offenses, emphasizing that the justice system should view them not as criminals but as individuals in need of assistance for a brighter future.

He underscored the importance of rehabilitation and reformation over punishment, stressing the need for extreme caution in sentencing children.

While recognizing that custodial sentences may be necessary in exceptional cases, Minister Haimbe outlined strict guidelines, including proportionality, limited duration, and humane treatment, to ensure the welfare of child offenders.

He clarified that the Children’s Code Act, 2022, allows for custodial orders under certain circumstances but prohibits life imprisonment for children.

Referring to legal precedents, the Minister highlighted the Supreme Court’s position on custodial sentences for child offenders in grave cases, emphasizing the need for careful consideration and adherence to legal principles.

Addressing public discourse on sentencing child offenders, Minister Haimbe assured that efforts are underway to ensure the appropriateness of sentences under the new legal framework. He reiterated his commitment to working with relevant stakeholders to implement the Children’s Code Act effectively.

In conclusion, Minister Haimbe emphasized the positive impact of the Children’s Code Act in protecting children’s rights and enhancing access to justice.

He expressed confidence that as society becomes more acquainted with the legislation, its benefits will be realized in safeguarding children’s welfare while upholding societal interests.

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