In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the juvenile justice system is governed by a law on child protection (adopted in 2009, due largely to a campaign of advocacy by BICE). It aims to improve the implementation of children's rights, especially for children in conflict with the law. Mediation is also encouraged by this law, to spare the child from long judicial proceedings, thus contributing to the rehabilitation of the child in conflict with the law. A typical profile of the child in conflict with the law in DRC has been established: Average age between 10 and 15 years 39% are illiterate 37% have started primary school 2/3 are orphans or have divorced parents Children in conflict with the law often belong to large families where the parents are unemployed and / or without income-generating activities. The four main offenses committed by children are: Theft Robbery with aggravating circumstances Rape Assault and battery (usually fights) BICE reported 3021 children imprisoned in 2010, in the provinces of Kinshasa, Kasai Oriental and Kasai Occidental.
BICE fights for restorative justice
BICE has worked in DRC since 1996, directly for 15 years, and currently in partnership with the BNCE DRC, to promote a environment that is respectful of children’s rights and towards an effective juvenile justice system.
In 2005, knowledge of children’s rights was reinforced among state actors through the dissemination of a handbook of protocols, which presented the law applicable to child soldiers and victims of conflict as well as a set of good practices.
The “Childhood Without Bars” programme consists of the following actions:
- the acquisition of expertise on juvenile justice by civil society, government, media, children and their families,
- operation of the country’s only centre offering an alternative to imprisonment for convicted children
- training and national advocacy on juvenile justice.
- Awareness-raising and training of partners involved in the justice system
- Advocacy to support alternative measures to imprisonment and better support for children in conflict with the law
- Legal assistance for children
- Support for community-based organizations (Local Protection Committee)
- Support for children in prisons and centres
Key figures per year
- 1000 adolescents in conflict with the law
- 4,000 members of the family circle of minors (parents, guardians, communities …)
- 180 people involved in the juvenile justice system (judges, staff, police …)
- 1000 social workers of closed centres
- 50 members of the media informed about juvenile justice (radio, TV, newspapers …)
B, 17 years old, living at a rescue centre in Kinshasa since the age of 15
"My name is B. My parents are divorced and my father now lives with our stepmother, who was extremely abusive towards us. Because of this abuse, I left home to live in the street with a group of friends. They taught me to steal, extort, fight, smoke ... One day, I took part in a robbery and we were caught by the police. We were arrested, beaten, taken to the police station and thrown into prison. With the support of BNCE, I was placed in The Rescue Centre, a special district juvenile prison. Today, thanks to the BNCE teams, my father visits me regularly and I know I can build a new future. What I would most like to do while I live at the Centre is learn a trade, maybe bakery."