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Lawyers for Human Rights & Legal Aid
Opp. Sindh Assembly Building, Court Road,
Karachi-74200, Pakistan
UAN: 111-911-912 Fax: 5685938

Email: lhrla@fascom.com
madadgaar@cyber.net.pk

Juvenile Justice

Though ten years have passed since Pakistan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC), Pakistani children in conflict with the law continue to be deprived of the justice and the protection promised in the Convention. Juvenile justice, as conceptualised in the Convention on the Rights of Child and other international instruments, is predicated on the adjudication of children's cases with a view to their rehabilitation and early reintegration into their communities. It entails separate custodial arrangements for children, a right to counsel, the timely processing of their cases, and the liberal use of alternative sentencing measures, such as release on probation or education and vocational training. The convention prohibits the imposition of capital punishment as well as torture and any other form of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Laws for Juvenile Justice

On July 1, 2000 President Rafiq Tarar of Pakistan promulgated the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000, which provides for the protection of children involved in criminal litigation. It comes into force at once and extends to the whole of Pakistan. Under the Ordinance every child who is accused of the commission of an offence or is victim of an offence will be have the right to free legal assistance to be provided by the state.

Juvenile in Custody

Former Chief Justice Sajjad ALi Shah and Mr. Zia Awan with juvenile

LHRLA members with Najma Parveen, Suhail Durrani and other guests at a seminar on 'Coordination between Government and Civil Institutions' (with reference to Women & Juvenile Jail Karachi) held in Karachi on May 26 2000.

LHRLA's Efforts

There were major reforms needed in the juvenile justice system. At the end of 1997 over 3,700 under-18 juvenile delinquents were confined in Pakistani prisons. For children in conflict with the law in Pakistan, torture, prolonged delays in the trial of their cases, and detention in overcrowded facilities without adequate educational or recreational opportunities remain the norm. Those who are convicted encounter harsh forms of justice. They face long prison terms, compulsory labour, and fines that serve as a barrier to their release. Neither the rights of the child nor the interests of society are served by these harsh measures.

LHRLA filed a constitutional petition in the Sindh High Court in March 1993. The petition called for, among other things, the establishment of juvenile courts for each district of Karachi and other parts of Sindh. Under orders from the Sindh High Court, the provincial government established a juvenile court in Karachi on December 18,1993, with Ms. Neelofer Shahnawaz as its presiding magistrate.

In a subsequent case, however, the court ordered two thirteen-year-old girls, Samreen and Shameem, to be detained in Karachi's Women's jail, pending their trial on charges of theft. The detention orders were challenged by LHRLA, and led to a landmark ruling by a division bench of Sindh High Court on July 14, 1999. The court declared the detention of children in adult prisons - whether pending trial or convicted, to be a violation of the Sindh Children Act. It ordered the Secretaries of the provincial Home and Law Departments to delete provisions in the Pakistan Prison Rules that allowed children to be detained in adult prisons in Sindh. In the absence of a detention centre for female juveniles the court ordered the release of Samreen and Shameen upon the provision of a bail of Rs.20,000/- ($392).

The court ruled that juvenile courts be established by the provincial Home Department for each of Sindh's 22 districts. The Home Department then instructed the provincial Inspector General of Prisons to establish separate juvenile wards in each district jail - a development that would prevent the mingling of criminal adults and children in prisons in the interior of the province.

In response to another constitutional petition filed by LHRLA against the use of fetters and handcuffs, the Sindh High Court abolished the use of these for juvenile delinquents.

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