Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 November 2019
Namibia's moves towards developing a new juvenile justice system for children in conflict commenced a quarter of a century ago. A country which emerged from the ravages of apartheid colonisation and a bloody civil war to gain independence in 1990, Namibia was an early signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (1989), and received the advice that juvenile justice system reform was required upon submission of the initial report in 1994. However, bringing the law reform process to a conclusion has been halting. The first draft of a Child Justice Bill was prepared as early as 1994. In 1999, the Juvenile Justice Interministerial Committee (IMC) commissioned a Discussion Document on Juvenile Justice in Namibia. This did not result in the adoption of a separate juvenile justice statute either. Nevertheless, some gains were made in developing restorative justice and diversion programmes, and slowly the involvement of social workers (acting as probation officers) in the nascent juvenile justice system began to take root. The IMC coordinated substantial activities pertaining to the transformation of criminal justice in steering efforts towards compliance with the CRC. A detailed plan of action was crafted and set in motion. The programme description towards a structured and holistic juvenile justice system contained a number of project interventions, namely: Law Reform, Training, Structures, Service Delivery System, Evaluation and Monitoring and Advocacy and Child Crime Prevention.
The principle of restorative justice was deeply written into the programme description. Progress was made in a short time regarding all project interventions. There was a common understanding that the system envisaged a preventative and remedial tool, that came with limitations, in that it would be deeply dependant on an effective service delivery system. The first version of a draft Child Justice Bill was presented to the IMC in 2002. However, this did not result in law reform efforts coming to fruition.
In 2012, a multisectoral and interdisciplinary workshop was held in the capital city Windhoek, to try to build momentum for enhanced efforts at reigniting the reform process.