By Nokuthaba Nkomo
Justice for Children Trust (JCT) has called on government to release children arrested during the crackdown unfurled in the aftermath of the three-day stay-away.
JCT has said at least 19 minors were apprehended by security forces in connection with public violence and looting that took place during the fuel price hikes demonstrations.
In a statement, JCT has pleaded with government to refrain from detaining children suggesting that they should not be treated like adults as they have their own rights.
“The law is straight-forward. The child must be released into the custody of their parents when they are arrested and the parents must ensure that they attend court when they are required.”
“We call on the State to right the wrong. No child should even be detained, even for the shortest period, and especially, ‘shackled’ together with adults.
“So far JCT has managed to have all children (brought to their attention) caught up in the stay-away aftermath, released into the custody of their parents. Treating children as children is constitutionally-protected,” the children’s organisation said.
Efforts to get a comment from the Zimbabwe Republic Police were fruitless as their numbers were unreachable.
The number of children arrested in the crackdown following the January 14 protests has reportedly continued to rise as they are taken into custody almost daily.
Last week, JCT attended to three minors between 14 and 17 who were charged with public violence and were allegedly in possession of items reported to have been looted in Highfields at Machipisa Shopping Centre on January 14.
Earlier on, the organisation had represented four juveniles at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts under the same charges.
“At Harare Remand Prison JCT attended to 12 juveniles aged between 15 and 17 years … facing various charges ranging from murder to robbery and unlawful entry.
“At Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, a juvenile was thrown behind bars for public violence and the matter is being attended to,” JCT added.
National Council for the Welfare of Children Taylor Nyanhete recently told the Daily News that when children commit crimes, the arresting officers should contact the Department of Social Welfare that will take responsibility for the child.
“The social welfare ensures that minors who have been found on the wrong side of the law are assigned to a probation officer who then compiles a report of what happened and represents the child in court.
“Children are not supposed to testify in court but should get probation officers to represent them,” Nyanyete said.
This comes after a 16-year-old girl from Epworth in Harare collapsed at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts due to injuries sustained during torture by State security agents.
She had been arrested with 60 other people following the violent anti-government protests. Daily News