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22 February 2017 | 14:24

BICE and its members meet for a regional seminar on juvenile justice

BICE and its members meet for a regional seminar on juvenile justice
©BICE

Between 2012 and 2015, BICE coordinated the first phase of the Childhood without Bars program in close collaboration with 10 partners from 9 countries in Africa and Latin America.

The objective of this regional seminar:

  • Develop restorative justice
  • Improve the care of children in conflict with the law
  • And their rehabilitation and reintegration.

In Africa, many children who are suspected, or have effectively committed an offence, are kept in custody, without any contact with their families. Generally, NGOs ensure their psychosocial care and rehabilitation.

In order to allow restorative justice to develop, BICE gathered its six African partners to discuss two crucial topics for French-speaking African countries:

  • Mediation in criminal cases and family mediation
  • The resources, which foster the rehabilitation of those children – namely the community leaders, the family and the community.

A regional seminar to encourage experience sharing

Thanks to the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) grant, BICE organised a regional seminar on juvenile justice on “Mediations – Juvenile justice and the rehabilitation of children in conflict with the law”. The seminar took place on September 27th and 28th, 2016 at Cotonou’s Episcopal Centre.

BICE and its partners shared their experience in the field of mediation. Other African experts also contributed to the discussions:

  • Mrs Patricia Myriam ISIMAT-MIRIN, Special Advisor to the Ombundsman of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire
  • Doctor Rita-Félicité SODJIEDO HOUNTON, President of a Beninese association assisting children and families (ABAEF) in Benin, legal expert and expert on Human rights, rights of the child and women’s rights
  • Mrs Alexandrine BEDIE SAIZONOU, lawyer and President of theAssociation des Femmes Avocates du Bénin

and two community leaders :

  • His Majesty KPONAN KPODJRO, President of a national association for the defense and revival of traditional worships in Benin (ANDRCT)
  • Mr Sekou TOUNKARA, member of the Bureau du Réseau des Communicateurs Traditionnels pour le Développement in Mali (RECOTRADE)

The seminar gathered 50 professionals of Benin together with members of BICE network from Ivory Coast, Mali, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa and Sud Kivu) and Togo.

In attendance were some child protection NGOs, child rights defenders, members of the justice system – magistrates, lawyers, policemen and gendarmes- as well as community and public institutions representatives and the Ombudsmen of Côte d’Ivoire and Benin.
Furthermore, many journalists covered the opening of the seminar. BICE published the seminar summary and sent it to its partners.

Actions around the regional seminar

Two field meetings were organised in collaboration with the association Enfants solidaires d’Afrique et du Monde (ESAM) in the Centre étatique de sauvegarde de l’enfance et de l’adolescence in Agblangandan and in the Foyer des Salésiens Don Bosco in Porto Novo. These meetings strengthened the links within the group by allowing concrete exchanges on successful practises.

After the regional meeting, 23 recommendations were formulated and adopted by the 12 associative or institutional partners, coming from 6 French-speaking African countries.

From 12 to 31 October, 2016, the 6 BICE partners shared the outcomes of the discussions with more than 125 people in Mali (Bamako, Segou, Sikasso and Mopti), Ivory Coast (Abidjan), Benin (Cotonou), the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Bukavu, Kinshasa) and in Togo (Lomé) . Disseminating the seminar conclusions and recommendations gave even more visibility to the event.

National NGOs and some State representatives (provincial divisions, juvenile court judges) also participated in the drafting process.