Violent incidents at juvenile centres expose managerial lapsesRights advocates call for effective measures not to let deadly clashes occur again.
One minor died while 11 others were injured in a clash at the Jayandu Juvenile Correction Centre in Daduwa Rural Municipality of Banke district on Thursday. All 254 inmates fled the centre, breaching boundary walls, railings and gates. While 254 have returned, nine are still at large by Friday evening.
This is the third incident of violence in a correction centre within a month in the country, raising questions on how such centres are being operated. Juvenile centres house children below 18 years who are convicted or are kept in custody for their involvement in crimes.
The first incident of such violence was reported last month in the Bhaktapur-based correction centre operated by Underprivileged Children’s Educational Programmes. On August 21, as many 297 juvenile inmates at the centre clashed with security personnel, an incident that left 20 police officials and 15 juvenile inmates injured. The juvenile delinquents clashed with the police after one of the minors lost his life under mysterious circumstances.
Kamal Basnet, 18, who hails from ward 3 of Manthali Municipality in Ramechhap district and had been suffering from fever, was rushed to the nearby Nagarik Hospital in a state of unconsciousness. He died allegedly from a lack of timely treatment. They not only clashed with the Nepal Police and Armed Police Force personnel but as many as 221 fled the centre, breaking its gate and the walls.
Three weeks later, on September 12, inmates from a juvenile centre in Birta of Birgunj Metropolitan City clashed among themselves. A group of inmates transferred from the juvenile centre in Sanothimi, Bhaktapur had physically assaulted the leader of the inmates at the reform centre. Some of the minors from Bhaktapur were transferred to Birgunj after the incident. Twenty security personnel and 15 juvenile inmates were injured in the clash.
Three incidents of violence just in the span of a month is a serious matter, said Tika Ram Pokharel, spokesperson for the National Human Rights Commission. “We are closely following the incidents,” Pokharel told the Post. “The minors are sent to correction centres so that they change their behaviour and attitudes. However, the recent incidents show these centres have completely failed to serve their purpose.”
The correction centres are tasked with bringing about changes in the attitudes and behaviours of the children who have committed crimes, and they have specific criteria to follow. But the latest series of episodes of violence show that there have been serious managerial lapses, Pokharel said.
Studies by the commission and other human rights organisations suggest that the situation at the correction centre is not better than ordinary prisons. They lack basic amenities and have a high density of inmates.
“There is no evaluation of how an individual child is behaving in the centres, nor is there an arrangement for any type of counselling,” said Pokharel, suggesting an urgent intervention from the government.
Advocacy Forum Nepal, which has done a situation analysis of several correction centres, said the back-to-back incidents demand a proper investigation into how they are run and action against the culprits. In a statement, the Forum said the centres are overcrowded, and the food and water provided to the inmates are substandard. There is no proper treatment available to the inmates and they also lack guidance, it pointed out.
“We request the government for a thorough study of the problems prevalent in the correction centres and address them immediately,” reads the statement issued by Biskash Basnet, director at the Advocacy Forum. “An effective and practical implementation of the laws related to child rights and justice is essential.”
According to Pokharel, Surya Dhungel, acting chairperson of the commission, recently contacted Minister for Home Affairs Narayan Kaji Shrestha to draw his attention to the frequency of such incidents. “He [Dhungel] suggested that the minister should take effective measures so that such incidents don’t repeat,” Pokharel said.