A Collective Failure: How Somaliland’s Criminal Justice System Harms Children

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15-year-old Yahye Mustafa Jama spent nine months in police custody before being acquitted by court on charges of assault

Somalilandsun: When children are accused of crimes in Somaliland, they are treated as if they are guilty.

The police arrest and detain them, sometimes for weeks or even months, before a judge ever hears the evidence against them. Adults in Somaliland suffer the same fate. And police forces and criminal justice systems all over the world behave in a similar fashion. But this approach is wrong in law, and counter-productive in practice.
When someone, whether an adult or a child, is accused of a crime, the police should investigate and the prosecution should bring a case only if there is evidence.

Ajudge should only convict if guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and the public should wait until a court decides if a person is guilty before thinking of them as a criminal. This responsibility is all the greater when the accused is a child. In reality,
however, often the determination to “teach them a lesson” overrides other considerations and children are treated as if they are guilty when they should be presumed innocent.
Safeguarding the right to be presumed innocent, unless and until proven guilty by a court of law, is vital to protecting children. Children are vulnerable and impressionable. Detaining them before and during trial exposes them to the very real danger of being ill-treated and, when locked up with adults as they are in Somaliland, of being corrupted by adults who have committed serious crimes. It also means they are stigmatised as criminals and likely to be bullied by their peers.
The law in Somaliland recognises these risks. There are clear legal
protections specifically intended to protect children from these harmful consequences. Imprisoning Children Before a Court Decides They Are Guilty details how easily children are being imprisoned before they are found guilty.

This is the opening given by Horizon Institute Somaliland in its second series of judiciary collective failure titled Imprisoning Children in Somaliland before a court decides their Guilt.

The report also discusses the laws that, if implemented, would
protect their right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty.
This report is the second instalment in the five-part series, A Collective Failure: How Somaliland’s Criminal Justice System Harms Children and What We Can All Do About It.

This series attempts to share with the public the injustices children accused of crimes experience and what we can all do to help create a more just system. It discusses four other topics in addition to how pre-trial detention punishes children before they are convicted: why it is unlawful to criminally punish children 14 years old and younger in Series One; how judges are sentencing children to long prison terms for relatively minor offences in Series Three; how the criminal justice system is functioning as a replacement for family responsibilities,
community interventions and solidarity and government educational and social services in Series Four; and what those working in the criminal justice system can do now, with little to no financial resources, to make sure each child is treated like a child in Series Five. Somaliland’s laws safeguard children accused of crimes. We all have a responsibility to make sure these laws work for the protection of all children, including treating them as innocent until proven guilty.

Read full report.A Collective Failure: How Somaliland’s Criminal Justice System Harms Children  HERE

Horizon Institute is working to advance the rule of law and human rights. @Horizon_SL and on Facebook at @HorizonInstituteSomaliland.

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