Lesotho Explores Restorative Justice in Draft Bill
The CPWB was originally sent to the Lesotho parliament in 2004 after
a four-year development process. This included consultation with a wide
range of stakeholders at all levels of society. According to Dr.
Itumeleng Kimane, a professor from the University of Lesotho, the
resulting document is considered to be one of the best examples of
child welfare legislation in Africa.
Although not yet approved by parliament, the CPWB served as the
basis for training of social workers, probation officers, officials
from juvenile training centres and court personnel conducted by UNICEF
and the government of Lesotho in 2006 and 2007.
In providing the context for restorative justice, the CPWB outlines the following purposes for restorative justice in paragraph 124:
- Provide an opportunity to the person or persons or community affected by the harm caused to express their views regarding the impact of such harm
- Encourage restitution of a specified object or symbolic restitution
- Promote reconciliation between the child and the person or community affected by the harm caused
- Empower communities to address children at risk of offending without resorting to criminal justice.
Restorative processes provided for in the legislation include:
- Family group conferences
- Open village healing circles
- Victim-offender mediation (VOM)
Among the many provisions for restorative processes is the creation
of the Village Child Justice Committee made up of the village chief and
six other elected members. The chairperson of this committee would be
responsible for convening conferences, VOMs or healing circles in
response to juvenile offending. The processes serve different purposes
under the legislation.
The family group conference (paragraph 127) would be to discuss care and protection needs of the child for whom the conference is called. The conference would develop a plan that is in the best interest of the child and would convene from time to time to monitor the progress of this agreement. Participants in a conference could include the children affected, their parents or guardians, probation officers, and other relevant organizations.
Victim offender mediation (paragraph 129) would bring together the
victim and offender for dialogue about the crime, active participation
in decision making concerning how to make things right, and allowing
the offender an opportunity to apologise.
The open village healing circle (paragraph 128) would expand participation in the restorative process to more individuals. It would be used when the harmful behaviour includes one or more of the following:
- Two or more acts of anti-social behaviour
- All members of the community have been harmed roughly equally
- Two or more children were involved
- It arises out of group-related conflict such as between two villages
- There is a high probability that the anti-social behaviour or offence will be repeated.
The Village Child Justice Committee would decide on the size of the
circles and the participants.
Referral to a restorative process could be made by a variety of
people, including the:
- Child or his/her parent, guardian or any appropriate adult
- Village chief
- Children’s court judge
Many child welfare advocates in Lesotho see the CPWB as a major improvement in meeting the needs of children in the country. In early July, stakeholders in children’s issues organized a one-day ministerial roundtable to lobby government officials to enact the bill into law. The government has indicated that it hopes to do so before the end of 2008.
- Child protection professionals in Lesotho call for the enactment of the Child Protection and Welfare Bill
- Children’s Protection and Welfare Bill 2004
- Experience of the Child Law Reform Process in Lesotho (PPT)
- Lesotho govt cornered to enact child legislation
- Report on Child Friendly Laws in African Context – Good and Promising Indicators and Practices