Minister vows to establish children’s court and restorative justice system for Tonga

Tonga’s Minister of Justice, Vuna Fāʻotusia, has revealed work is underway to establish a Children’s Court and a restorative justice system for victims.

Hon. Fāʻotusia said the current justice system dealt only with punishing offenders and nothing was done to make sure the lives and welfare of victims of crime were restored to the way they were before the crime took place.

Speaking in Parliament, he said the need for the new justice system for Tonga was long overdue.

The Minister’s announcement came after a report released in the United Kingdom listed Tonga as one of the countries where the court system was ineffective in defending children’s rights.

The list ranked 197 countries from number 1 as the best down to number 197. Tonga was ranked number  165 while its neighbours,  Fiji was placed 116 and Samoa was in number 105.

“Two things I want to tell you members, there is work underway to establish the juvenile court, and the rights of the victims – the restorative system,” Hon. Fa’otusia told the House.

Fāʻotusia was responding after Lord Vaea told the House he wanted the government to establish juvenile courts for children under 18.

The noble was concerned that children under 18 were sentenced in Tongan courts with the same laws used to sentence those regarded as adults.

Lord Vaea said it would be wise to have a special court to take care of children when they committed offences.

He said he felt that under the current system children were affected, especially when it comes to crime of sexual abuse.

Children and justice

The Child Rights International Network (CRIN) 2016 Report was released in Britain on February 15.

Entitled Rights, Remedies and Representation, it condensed  findings from 197 country reports, researched with the support of hundreds of lawyers and NGOs.

It said the report was not a ranking of how well countries protect children’s rights, but of how well states enabled children to access justice and enforce their rights.

“Nonetheless, it is hard to ignore the fact that the countries with the most deplorable human rights records do not score well on access to justice,” the report said.

Writing in the report’s forward, the Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Benyam Dawit Mezmur, said: “I hope this study is only the beginning of a new shift in making access to justice for children a priority that will enable other rights to be fulfilled.”

The main points

  • Tonga’s Minister of Justice, Vuna Fa’otusia, has revealed work is underway to establish a Children’s Court and a restorative justice system for victims.
  • Fa’otusia said the current justice system dealt only with punishing offenders and nothing was done to make sure the lives and welfare of victims of crime were restored to the way they were before the crime took place.
  • Speaking in Parliament, he said the need for a new justice systems for Tonga was long overdue.
  • The Minister’s announcement came in the wake of a report released in the United Kingdom listed Tonga as one the countries where the court system was ineffective in defending children’s rights.

For more information 

Rights, Remedies and Representation (full report)

United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child

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