Cape Town - The Centre for Child Law has called on law enforcement agencies to comply with the Justice Act when dealing with children caught up in current protests and looting.
The centre said with more than 400 people arrested in Gauteng and over 200 in KwaZulu Natal, it was still unclear how many children account for those numbers.
“We condemn the voluntary and/or encouraged participation of children in these unlawful conducts. Children are among the most vulnerable groups in society. Their human rights are prone to be affected by the actions and decisions of their caregivers, parents or guardians.”
The centre added that with schools closed, children, especially in the affected areas, have nothing to keep them preoccupied and this might have galvanised their involvement.
“We caution against parents, caregivers or guardians who encourage and/or condone the involvement and participation of children in the acts of alleged criminality. A child alleged to be in conflict with the law is entitled to be treated in a manner and kept in conditions which duly consider the child’s age.
“We urge law enforcement officials to enforce and comply with the standards set out in the Child Justice Act 75 of 2008 when dealing with a child alleged to be in conflict with the law. Our law enforcement officers need to be mindful that a child need not be detained unless it is a matter of last resort.
“Where the release from detention is impossible, detention must be for the shortest period. While in detention, children must be separated from adults and girls must be separated from boys,” they said.
The centre has further called for pragmatic steps to be taken to ensure the safe release of a child from detention into the care and custody of the caregiver “pending appearance in the appropriate forum”.