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Legal fight over minor prisoners dead in the water

Iréne-Mari van der Walt
A case involving child detention in adult holding cells was struck from the High Court roll last Thursday after the parties involved failed to show up to court the previous day.

The court also ordered that no similar complaints may be brought before it again.

On 13 September, the parties were ordered to give sufficient reasons - by Wednesday, 21 September - why no progress had been made in the case for six months.

This after gender equality, poverty eradication and social welfare minister Doreen Sioka was in March acquitted of contempt of court charges when she allegedly failed to comply with a court order to implement a plan of action regarding the legal detention of children awaiting trial.

Sioka did, however, submit a plan in which she said the home affairs ministry’s correctional services division is better equipped to set up and maintain such centres.

In her plan to the High Court, she also outlined that a farm in the Omaheke Region, Kaukurus, could be upgraded and put into use to “help children living on the streets and other vulnerable children".

She also explained that her ministry would continue to offer alternative punishments and rehabilitation processes on Farm Kaukurus.

‘Legal system failed kids’

Former ombudsman John Walters expressed his dismay in the developments.

"All I can say is I'm sorry that the children have to suffer now. Our legal system - not just the ministry - failed those children," he told Namibia Media Holdings.

Walters said he believes Sioka should still be held accountable for minors awaiting trial who are held with adults in police holding cells.

"I believe that as long as she has not established these centres, she is in contempt of the law," he said.

According to him, the responsibility now rests on the shoulders of the ministries of justice and gender to ensure that the issue is rectified.

"I would like to appeal to our legal system and the ministry to ensure that this continues to happen," he said.

The gender ministry failed to respond to questions on the matter by time of going to print.

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Namibian Sun 2022-12-04

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