Better Aid for Chadian Youth

ChadChildren’s rightsNews

N’Djamena, Chad – August 21, 2012.  Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF), in partnership with the local NGO APLFT (Association pour la Promotion des Libertés Fondamentales au Tchad) launched a project to improve the support for minors in N’Djamena. This project will reinforce the capacities of the different actors in the related social and legal spheres. Awareness campaigns are being organised for both the population and the authorities in order to make the rights of minors better known and recognised.

Having emerged from different wars and political troubles that have shaken the country until 2008, Chad is in full reconstruction mode. The difficulties are numerous, notably in the social domain. Aid for youth in particular faces significant challenges: State structures have been implemented but are not operational; the parents, often poor, receive no support for their children’s education; and social and/or legal services lack resources and are ineffective.

Northeastern Chad, near the border with North Darfur, 2008 © Michael Von Bergen

Children are the first victims of these shortcomings. Many are neglected or abandoned. “An incalculable number of minors are subjected to mistreatment and to worse forms of exploitation,” testifies Coralie de Lhoneux, ASF’s legal expert in Chad. “No measures are taken by the government, whether it comes to the aid for these minors or to pursue those who mistreated them.” Minors in conflict with the law are regularly sent to prison without having the opportunity to consult a lawyer. They stay in prolonged pre-trial detention or suffer heavy sentences, and are mixed with adults and kept in unsuitable prison conditions. They do not receive any measure of support or education, however indispensable these may be to their rehabilitation.

Despite the official declarations of intent, support for troubled minors remains problematic. For several years, and despite limited resources, civil society NGOs have taken on the provision of social and legal aid to vulnerable populations, including children.

Financed by the European Union, ASF’s project started in April of 2012 with training for minor protection centres, legal aid NGOs, and APLFT lawyers. Meanwhile, a team of lawyers in charge of supporting and defending minors in conflict with the law is being implemented under ASF’s supervision. These same lawyers will participate in exchange workshops with the magistrates in order to together improve the legal monitoring of minors.

Awareness campaigns aimed at a wide audience and involving traditional leaders and police and gendarmerie forces are also being organised.

Finally, ASF is advocating with the relevant ministries for a reinforcement of the structures of support and shelter, as well as for effective monitoring of minors in trouble with the law.

“Shelters, legal aid NGOs, social workers, juvenile judges, lawyers, public authorities, police forces, traditional leaders…all must work together. The success of the project depends on the functional synergies of all parties concerned,” explains de Lhoneux.

“In the end, our work deals with respect for national and international legislation. Even if they are at times incomplete, the existing texts must be the basis of all decisions. Their practical implementation and a public awareness are the first steps in the long process of improving the social and legal situation of Chadian minors. It is imperative that their rights and their welfare be respected,” concludes de Lhoneux.

Cover picture: Chad 2012 © Tom Stevens