High Court, The State v. R.M. (a juvenile), 5 October 2006, Case No. HC 2830/06
Constitution of Zimbabwe
Article 111(b): Effects of International Conventions
Except as otherwise provided by this Constitution or by or under an Act of Parliament, any convention, treaty or agreement acceded to, concluded or executed by or under the authority of the President with one or more foreign states or governments or international organizations: (…) (b) shall not form part of the law of Zimbabwe unless it has been incorporated into the law by or under an Act of Parliament.
Reference to international law to strengthen a decision based on domestic law
Need to consider international law when dealing with child offenders/ Reference to international law to strengthen a decision based on domestic law
In reviewing a sentence of imprisonment imposed on a 17-year-old orphan girl for stealing from her employer, the judge considered that a prison sentence should only be applied as a last resort, particularly in the case of juveniles. Moreover, it observed that in these harsh economic conditions, children – and especially orphans such as the accused – are forced into the labour market. In these cases, courts should protect children’s rights “in terms of national legislation and international laws and instruments”.2 In particular, the judge referred to Articles 15 and 17 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, Articles 32 and 40 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 3 of the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention No. 182 stating that “[w]hen dealing with such child offenders the provisions of these international instruments should be borne in mind”.3 Relying on these instruments, it considered that the fact that the accused was a child worker should have been regarded as a “strong mitigatory factor”.4
Finally, the court confirmed the conviction but reduced the sentence, strengthening its reasoning by referring to the above-mentioned international instruments relating to children’s rights and child labour.
1 ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182); Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989; African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, 1999.