Police is struggling to uphold the standards of dispensing justice to child offenders. Child Justice Activists at a two-day Global Conference on Child Justice currently on-going in Kampala have accused the justice system of not being conscious of the rights of children when dealing with minor offenders.
Dr. Fidelis Babugura, a child rights advocate with National Association of Women Organizations in Uganda says that the police force for instance is ill-trained to observe the rights of children in cases where they commit offences.
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Edward Ochom, the Director of CID in the Police Force says that the proper procedures should include the young offender being interviewed, not interrogated, and the process being carried out in a room with no adult offenders.
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But at the police posts and stations, the reality is contrary to the ideal situation which Ochom paints. Kasaawe Police Post at Nsambya, which URN visited, operates in a single room in a crumbling building.
This means that there are no separate rooms in which young offenders can be interviewed when brought in. Sam Gawola, the Officer-in-Charge of Kasaawe Police post says that when minor offenders are brought to the post, they are immediately taken to the main Police Station in the area, to avoid violation of their rights.
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Prudence Haguma, the Officer-in-Charge of CID at Kira Road Police Station, says that juveniles are not supposed to be handcuffed when arrested, and if detained, they should be kept in holding cells separate from the adult cells. The Police Station has two juvenile cells.
Haguma says that her station doesn’t have any personnel with specialized skills in interrogating juveniles. And contrary to what Ochom says, the young offenders can be interviewed by an officer of any gender according to Haguma.
The UN Guidelines on Justice in Matters Involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime were adopted by the United National Economic and Social Council in 2005. The juvenile justice conference is meant to follow up on how much progress countries like Uganda have made in policy implementation in regard to dispensing child-friendly justice.