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In 2008, Guinea undertook to promote non-custodial measures for young people in conflict with the law. Five years later, practical application of this decision is virtually nonexistent. The same number of youngsters are still being put into prison for minor crimes. Terre des hommes (Tdh) is working so that the incarceration of youngsters becomes the exception rather than the rule in this poor West African country.
In Guinea, despite ratification of the principle of the best interests of the child in judicial procedures, there are still nearly 600 minors in prison (source: UNICEF). “You can find children who have done no more than stolen a little food or small quantities of money, detained for six months, a year or even longer in the central prison without ever coming before a judge”, says a policeman from the Matam district of Conakry.
The standards of juvenile justice are struggling to be applied. Apart from Conakry there is no court for minors, and many children in conflict with the law have no chance to be represented by anyone competent in the sector of juvenile justice.
Tdh appeals for non-custodial measures
“Every time we put a youngster in prison, we produce a delinquent.” For Olivier Feneyrol, the Tdh delegate in Guinea, imprisoning minors in conflict with the law is clearly not the solution.
Our Foundation works in partnership with the local NGO Sabou-Guinée to promote restorative juvenile justice, based on redress and mediation rather than on repression. The Sabou-Guineé workers interact daily with the police and the judiciary to make them aware of non-custodial methods and to help them organize mediation between the various parties involved in a conflict with the law. Sabou-Guinée encourages the authorities to apply alternatives such as the community service that is provided for by Guinean law.
As Thierno Sadou Diallo, a lawyer working in partnership with Sabou and Terre des hommes says: ”The purpose of the law, in connection with juveniles, is to help these young people to be reintegrated in society. From cross-examination to detention up to sentencing, the idea should be to help them to get back on the right path, to reintegrate with their families and their community so as to become honest adult members of society.” Terre des hommes is convinced that this approach is the most effective and gives most respect to children’s rights. It is with this in mind that our Foundation runs its programme for juvenile justice in Guinea.