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Timor Leste: 21 children being held in adult prisons

Dili Weekly - December 12, 2012

Young prisoners and adults are held in the same prison but PRADET says this will impact their mental health.

At least 21 minors are being held in adult prisons because the country lacks correctional facilities for minors despit East Timor-Leste being a signatory to the Convention for the Rights of the Child, which protects people under 18 year olds,

"That is correct, we have underage prisoners serving sentences alongside adult criminal in prisons. According to international law this is not right and even though they were being kept separate from the adult prisoner population this is still not acceptable because the should be in separate facilities," said the Commissioner for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, Adalgisa M. S. Ximenes, (04/12), from her office in Colmera, Dili.

She added the efforts of the National Commission for the Rights of the Childn (KNDL) and their civil society partners on this matter have had some positive response from the government and it plans as part of the Fifth Constitutional Government's Strategic Plan to establish a Education and Detention Centre for minors who commit crimes so they can be rehabilitated through education.

Commissioner Ximenes said the rights of children are being violated but a process is ongoing to ensure the articles of the signed Conventions are fulfilled. She said the State is looking into these issues but more effort is required from everyone to improve the conditions of Timorese children.

Meanwhile the Coordinator for the Drugs and Alcohol Program (PDAJJ) of the Psychosocial Recovery And Development In East Timor (PRADET) NGO, Luisa Marcal de Jesus, said this reality is unacceptable and even thought the children are being kept in separate cells this will still impact on their physical and mental health because during recreational hours they are together with the adult population and there is much pressure in such a environment. She urges the government to look into their matter.

"This is our reality and we are following this issue but separate juvenile detention facilities must be built," said the Coordinator of the PDAJJ.

PRADET works with the young prisoners and gives them access to non-formal education and supports them with knowledge on how to manage their stress and depression whilst in prison and the impact of drugs for their health. PRADET is also committed to supporting them when they are released from jail and their reintegration into society. PRADET works alongside the government's department of mental health.