26% reduction in number of children in jails due to juvenile justice system: NJJN
More protections needed for children in jails and facing trials in courts
Sohail Rashid and Yasir Ilyas
Since promulgation of Juvenile Justice system, the number of juveniles in prisons in the country has reduced from 5200 ten years ago to 1350 this year. The 26% reduction shows a visible improvement towards protection of children’s rights in the country.
Executive Director of the Society for Protection of Rights (SPARC) Arshad Mahmood revealed this information while addressing a press conference here Tuesday. National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) members accompanied him on the occasion. Sixteen human rights and child rights NGOs working on juvenile justice including Legal Aid Office, Azad Foundation, AGHS, Sanjog, CLAAS, Rehai, Seher, Dost Welfare Foundation, Voice of Prisoners, Aurat Foundation, SAHIL, SHARP, Child Rights Legal Center, LHRLA and SPARC have formed NJJN Pakistan. Plan International, Save the Children Sweden, UNICEF, and UNODC enjoy observer status of NJJN. The network works together to achieve better results and implementation of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) 2000.
Arshad said to make this trend sustainable and further improve the lot of the children in jails, the respective governments have to play a pro active role. Members of NJJN from Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Punjab and Sindh highlighted different aspects of Juvenile Justice and miserable conditions of the juvenile inmates in Pakistani jails. The participants expressed concern over grave violations under Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) 1901. Children up to the age of three years have been imprisoned under its Collective Responsibility Clause. They stressed on bringing Federally Administered Tribal Areas under proper laws and implementation of JJSO there.
Members of NJJN also called for thorough screening of ‘Anti Terrorism Act’ that treats children and adults alike. They called upon the government to make sure that the law is not blind towards children and that it should not be misused to curb basic human rights of juveniles to a fair trial.
NJJN asked for making budgetary allocation for establishing exclusive Juvenile Courts and extending free legal aid to juveniles on the expense of the State. The members also called for the rising minimum age of criminal responsibility, appointment of more Probation Officers and Female Probation Officers. It called upon the government to ensure fair and equitable treatment of all children including children of FATA and foreign children imprisoned in Pakistani jails.