Skip to main content

Juvenile Justice in Mozambique

@Patrizia Bonazinga

The Project

In line with the UNICRI Angolan experience, the three-year programme (2006-2009) focused on the Maputo Province (including a few nation-wide activities) combined institution building and social activities. The programme also included analysis and information sharing through the creation of a Juvenile Justice Forum and the construction of a database on minors in conflict with the law.

Support to the institutions includes the preparation of a Code of Conduct for the Community Courts; the reinforcement of the Juvenile Court, the Education and Training Centre, and the Juvenile Reception and Observation Centre in Maputo. Training was provided at national level to clerks from the twelve juvenile courts, social workers, police and correctional officers, paralegal personnel and NGO volunteers.

The programme supported the public institutions in the establishment of two certified non-governmental structures for the reception and treatment of minors in conflict and the safeguard of their rights. Social activities included vocational training and work placement for 30 adolescents in conflict with the law.

The project aimed at improving the living conditions of young Mozambicans, especially minors in conflict with the law and/or at risk, and at promoting their rights while enhancing the capacities of institutions and community organizations dealing with them by organizing trainings as well as providing equipment.

The legal framework

Mozambique ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994 and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in 1998. Recently, the country started a process of harmonization of its national legislation within the international legislative framework. The Mozambican juvenile justice system (civil and criminal), previously regulated by Decree 417/71, Estatuto de Assistência Jurisdicional aos Menores do Ultramar, was reformed in June 2008 by the Law 7/2008, Lei de Promoção e Protecção dos Direitos da Criança and by Law 8/2008, Lei da Organização Tutelar de Menores.   

The necessity to harmonize the Mozambican juvenile justice system with the international norms called specially for the application of the articles 37, 39 and 40 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to Mozambican Law 7/2008, the new legislation regulates the promotion and protection of the rights of the child with special regard to the civil and the criminal aspects of juvenile justice. 

Results achieved

The UNICRI programme promoted the rehabilitation, refurbishment and opening of the first Criminal Prevention Section of the Tribunal for Minors of Mozambique in February 2009 to enable the Government to have an ad hoc section for criminal cases. Moreover, UNICRI in May 2009 opened the first pre-trial Observation Centre and the first post-trial Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre. The rehabilitation of these structures represented an important step in order to provide an accurate treatment to minors at risk and/or in conflict with the law. The Tribunal for Minors is responsible for dealing with all the cases – either civil or criminal - concerning minors younger than 16 years old.

The Observation Centre has a triple function: it is a place where minors may find shelter whenever they are unable to be immediately received by the Tribunal for Minors; it may receive minors that have been sent by the judge of the Tribunal after the beginning of a legal procedure in order to be observed (the personality, behaviour, adaptation, socio-familiar situation, etc.) and to put the judge in the position of taking a decision; and finally it is the place where minors who have been charged with serious offences wait for the conclusion of their own process (for a term not superior of 30 days).

The Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre is the last phase that minors face before being reinserted back into the society with their families. It is important to stress that going to the Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre is just one of the possible social-educative measure that the judge may impose to a minor and it is a measure used only for most severe cases. The Rehabilitation Centre is managed by the Ministry of Justice and counts with the work of educators, psychologists and social assistants who accompany minors during their stay at the centre. At the centre minors also have the possibility of continuing their studies and participating in vocational training as a support for their reinsertion into society as well as their potential future self-sustainment.

UNICRI carried out trainings of personnel responsible for working both at the Tribunal for Minors, and the Observation Centre as well as at the Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre.
Training is a fundamental tool to ensure that personnel responsible of working with minors at risk and/or in conflict with the law are adequately prepared to support them. For this reason it is worth mentioning that significant trainings were held for 120 people, among them managers, judges, prosecutors, and clerk officers of the 11 Provincial Courts and of the Tribunal for Minors of Maputo; 80 social workers and assistants; 200 law enforcements officials; 50 NGO workers and 60 paralegals.

At the social level, the programme actively collaborated with Community Courts and set up a network of community services. Information and awareness campaigns were widely carried out through two Information Points and street units. The Information Points were established at the neighbourhoods of Baixa and Hulene in Maputo.

The Information Points started as a place where families would go for advice but which turned into an important reference point able to mobilize communities and assist them in resolving conflicts by supporting and training personnel of community courts, collecting data and discussing with community personalities, police and heads of the neighbourhoods. Moreover, UNICRI’s support facilitated the link between formal and informal justice by promoting a dialogue between community courts and the Tribunal for Minors.

The activities carried out in Hulene, with the support of the Italian NGO GVC and the Mozambican NGO CST, included the rehabilitation and enlargement of a Centre that already existed and the creation of a street unit. In Hulene, the centre receives minors and provides recreational activities such as sports and art activities for minors at risk. Moreover, great emphasis has been given to vocational training as a way of rehabilitation and reinsertion of minors at risk or those who have been in conflict with the law. The centre provides a variety of vocational courses such as tailoring, hairdressing, ceramic, professional painting, tin making, shoe making, IT courses and music courses (percussion).

UNICRI, with its partners, have already successfully inserted some of the juveniles, providing them job placements. The activities carried out at the Baixa with the Italian NGO CIES (supported by the Mozambican NGO MDM), included the creation of a new Information Point and implementation of prevention and information campaigns by creating a support network for minors. Training courses for social operators and police officers were carried out as well as conferences at social centres located in the neighbourhood. The use of theatre pieces performed directly by minors turned out to be a significant awareness tool. UNICRI, with the support of the Italian NGO ISCOS promoted vocational training and work placements for 30 adolescents in conflict with the law in Hulene and Baixa. Important activities were carried out in this area such as: the creation of partnerships in the formal market with private companies and entrepreneurs, the provision of internships for minors as well as job placements.
UNICRI also set-up a database dedicated to minors in conflict with the law, which is accessible for the Police, the Ministry of Justice and the National System of Prisons. The database provides information of all minors who are accessing the justice system.

In addition, UNICRI set up a Juvenile Justice Forum to promote the inter-ministerial dialogue and debate on juvenile justice issues. The Forum on Juvenile Justice was conceived in order to promote an inter-institutional dialogue and encourage the formulation of new policies and strategies in the area of juvenile justice and strengthen the capacity of institutions to deal with minors. The Forum includes the following institutions: Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Labour, Tribunal for Minors, Ministry of Women and Social Action, Attorney General of the Republic, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Youth and Sports and Ministry of Education. In May 2009, it was opened to the civil society to promote social understanding, sensitivity and involved the people in favour of the rights of minors. At the event, all the above-mentioned institutions of the Forum have illustrated the activities in the area of protection of minors and subsequently followed a discussion open to the public. The Forum has been formally received by the Ministry of Justice, demonstrating the auto-sustainability of the activity.

Information-awareness campaigns have been conducted at the national level. UNICRI has produced and published two researches, one on community justice and one on the informal market and produced also guidebooks for minors and their families, social operators and police officers. Moreover, UNICRI has produced the first Compendium on International and National Legislation treating on Crime Prevention of Juveniles.

UNICRI has carried out the programme thanks to the support of: Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Italian Cooperation Agency; and Regione Emilia Romagna.

and in  collaboration with the following governmental, NGOs and international organizations: Government of Mozambique; CIES; GVC; ISCOS; Social Cooperative of Tsembeka (CTS); CMC Africa; CFGG; UNICEF and Italian Department of Juvenile Justice.