Defending children in conflict with the law

In Zambia, as in many countries, criminal justice systems often violate aspirational norms. Children in Zambia are frequently detained in adult facilities for extensive periods. Since 2018, we have been advocating for 115 child defendants held in six adult prisons.

In October 2018, working with the Zambia Judiciary, the Zambia Corrections Department, and DLA Piper pro bono client Undikumbukire Zambia (UP Zambia), we conducted a week-long child justice drive in Copperbelt Province, Zambia. The organizations interviewed and documented the experiences of child defendants.

We provided logistical support and funding for the drive and 17 DLA Piper lawyers from 12 countries joined UP Zambia staff on their visits to the six prisons holding children. Following the interviews, our team documented cases, prepared case plans, searched neighborhoods for parents, located missing files, represented children in court and advocated with judges and administrators.

Impact

As a result of our intervention, a judge was appointed to oversee children's cases in criminal proceedings. We are working with this judge, alongside UP Zambia, to develop a juvenile desk. This will enable the judge to monitor cases and distribute information on child justice.

We have supported UP Zambia in building relationships and gaining familiarity with Copperbelt. UP Zambia now has relationships with judges, prison officials and social welfare officials and it has applied for an EU grant to establish an office in Copperbelt.