Head of Tdh’s Access to Justice (A2J) programme
“Justice for children and youth remains a real challenge: more than one million young people worldwide are believed to be deprived of their liberty. Over 70% of them are still awaiting trial.”
“Justice for children and youth remains a real challenge: more than one million young people worldwide are believed to be deprived of their liberty. Over 70% of them are still awaiting trial. The maximum period of pre-trial custody is often not complied with, the conditions of detention can be dreadful, recurrence rates are significant and only few receive specialised legal aid.
Formal justice does not reach the whole population
The international community and local authorities usually focus on support programmes for the official institutions and neglect the traditional systems of justice – which are outside the jurisdiction of the State. The State justice system is, however, often geographically inaccessible and sometimes considered to be corrupt. The decisions of the courts take a long time and are not always culturally appropriate. The traditional systems which handle community conflicts have the trust of a large part of the population. Therefore, there is not only one justice system for everyone.
I have been working on the subject of traditional justice for many years. I have been able to observe the reluctance of the State justice representatives, but at the same time their respect for traditional justice, to which they themselves sometimes have recourse. In certain contexts, the judges and prosecutors regularly consult the community representatives prior to pronouncing a sentence. The traditional parties are also willing to share their practices, to make them more transparent and to collaborate with the State’s justice systems.
There is a great deal of scepticism around this subject. In traditional justice, certain practices are in conflict with human rights. It is not a question of denying the existence of these shortcomings and abuses, but rather to provide solutions.
A hybrid approach
Tdh aims to offer better access to justice for children and adolescents by reconciling the formal and informal systems of justice and by establishing collaboration between the various parties. In order to do this, we are investigating three hypotheses:
- The first is to gain a better understanding and recognition of the good practices of the traditional justice system, with respect for human rights.
- The second is that improved collaboration of the official and traditional parties should contribute to their drawing closer and offering alternative answers to repressive measures.
- The third hypothesis considers that an adjustment of legislation would enable the establishment of formal relations between the official and traditional justice actors.
Results reached by Terre des hommes
The studies and projects run by Tdh in the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Asia for many years in the domain of traditional justice have proved to be very encouraging and have allowed us to demonstrate real progress:
- We note an increase in the participation of youth in the mechanisms of managing traditional conflicts;
- The best interest of the child is increasingly taken into account in judgements;
- Collaboration between people in formal and informal justice is improving.”