Samira Bawumia and Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo in a group photograph with the Canadian High Commissioner and others
Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo and the Second Lady, Hajia Samira Bawumia, have inaugurated Ghana’s first model child-friendly gender-based violence court in Accra.
The model Accra Circuit Court 5 is being funded by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) with support from the Government of Canada.
The court would provide children with access to justice to meet their particular needs and protect their human rights.
The completion of the court, which began in 2013, is an important milestone for Ghana, as it strives towards a peaceful and inclusive society that provides access to justice for all, especially women, children and the vulnerable.
The court has a dedicated waiting room, a testifying room for children and is fully fitted with CCTV cameras, which would help to eliminate any direct contact between the accused and the victims of abuse during court proceedings.
Speaking at the inauguration, Samira Bawumia, stated that the model child-friendly court would enhance juvenile justice delivery and promote effective adjudication of juvenile cases.
She said the importance of access to justice in respect of children in conflict with the law cannot be overemphasised.
“Ghana has made progress in promoting children’s access to justice. Ghana was the first country to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child and has ratified a number of international instruments relating to child protection, including the African Charter on the rights and welfare of the child,” she said.
“The new model child-friendly court will enhance our juvenile justice system, protect the right of juveniles, ensure an appropriate response to juvenile offenders, protect young offenders for more connected purposes,” Mrs Bawumia stated.
She expressed gratitude to UNICEF and the Canadian government for their role in helping strengthen the child protection system in Ghana.
“Indeed your sustained efforts in promoting children’s access to justice are commendable.”
The Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo, stressed the importance of the model child-friendly court, saying many children who are witnesses or victims of all forms of abuse are in most cases unable to cope with the rigorous nature of the regular court rooms.
“The special court is created to recognise and accommodate the physical, developmental and emotional requirements of children and to ensure that they are not overburdened by the trauma of having to go through the judicial system,” Justice Akuffo said.
She stressed the need for the special court to be replicated in all regions of the country to ensure that rights of children are protected and respected.
Country Representative of UNICEF, Anne-Claire Dufay, disclosed that the successful prosecution of people who abuse the right of children depends on the ability of the children to give evidence.
She said the establishment of child friendly courts would enable the children to comfortably do so.
Canadian High Commissioner to Ghana, Heather Cameron, on her part, stated that “the launch of the court is an important step in realising the vision of ensuring that children have access to a safe space where their views are taken seriously and where their best interest is at the centre of every decision that is taken concerning them.”
She commended the Judicial Service, UNICEF, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and the Ghana Police Service for their tireless efforts and collaboration in ensuring that access to justice for children becomes a reality.
By Gibril Abdul Razak