Sharing sessions on children’s rights in the South-West region of Côte d’Ivoire and Abidjan

Benoît Gingras, lawyer, was deployed by the IBCR as legal advisor to the Legal Clinic of San Pedro, Côte d’Ivoire, as part of the Voluntary Cooperation Programme (PCV) for a 2-week mission. He joined Karina Fauteux, a legal adviser deployed in the same structure for an 8-month assignment.

On 25 April 2019, the two volunteer advisers launched a marathon of 11 sessions of information and experience-sharing on children’s rights over a two-week period in the San Pedro and Abidjan region. These sessions were made possible thanks to the participation of several stakeholders in the field, including the San Pedro Legal Clinic, the Association of Women Jurists of Côte d’Ivoire (AFJCI), directors of state structures, judicial police officers and NGO associations. The objective of this series of meetings was to improve knowledge and application of children’s rights among stakeholders in the Ivorian justice system.

As part of this mission, Benoit Gingras first visited the police stations and gendarmeries of San Pedro in order to discuss with the judicial police officers of the region the cases where the treatment of the child comes into conflict with the law. During these interviews, participants discussed the main principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the right to a lawyer, the powers of arrest of police officers, as well as extrajudicial statements and the consequences of not respecting the fundamental rights of minors under arrest in Canada and Côte d’Ivoire. It was an opportunity to discuss the similarities and differences between national laws but also to discuss some elements of the new Ivorian Code of Criminal Procedure.

The two cooperants then met with staff members of the Soubré Court Section, the city’s social workers and the National Commission on Human Rights of Côte d’Ivoire in the Nawa region (CNDHCI). These meetings included an introduction to children’s rights under the International Convention and the African Charter and a presentation of specific themes such as ethics and professional conduct relating to children in the justice system, communication techniques with minors in conflict with the law and victims or witnesses of various forms of violence, extrajudicial measures and concepts to be considered when granting legal custody of a child. The participants were very interested and participatory despite the difficulties related to the power cuts that occurred during the training day. Another similar session was also held in Sassandra with members of the Child Protection Platform.


The San Pedro Legal Clinic and social workers were also able to benefit from Mr. Gingras’ expertise during a training session on child representation and hearing techniques for minors. The objective was to give these key workers with young victims and offenders tools to facilitate the care of minors and to minimize their effects on minors who are victims or witnesses of violent events. A similar session was also held with social workers from the Direction of child protection, with the support of the Delegation of Quebec in Abidjan. This particular session also included concepts of legal custody of children.

Civil society organizations in San Pedro and the Abidjan NGO Forum for Child Relief were also able to interact with IBCR cooperants. Indeed, they had expressed a need for capacity building on subjects related to minors such as children in conflict with the law, the principles of resocialization after incarceration, communication techniques, notions of legal custody and child discipline. These days were marked by vibrant exchanges concerning the difficulties experienced by the structures and the search for solutions to achieve their objectives while respecting the rights of the child and contributing to their personal development.

The members of the Association of Women Jurists of Côte d’Ivoire also benefited from a lively discussion session with Mr. Gingras. It was an opportunity to explain to participants how to discipline children while respecting their rights, how to communicate effectively with them, including victims of physical, sexual or abuse, and how to identify extrajudicial measures that can be applied in cases of juvenile delinquency. The exchanges also provided an opportunity to discuss possible legislative reforms in Côte d’Ivoire on these subjects.

This series of meetings allowed for a multitude of exchanges and reflections on legal and cultural differences and similarities as well as the specific challenges related to the various justice systems. Everyone was able to present their concerns and we were able to discuss opportunities to improve the protection of children’s rights in light of Canadian practices, international and regional conventions, as well as Ivorian laws and realities.

Karina Fauteux is a voluntary legal adviser deployed in Côte d’Ivoire as part of the project “Protection of children, women and other communities in vulnerable situations” (PRODEF). This project is being implemented by the International Bureau for Children’s Rights (IBCR) and Lawyers Without Borders Canada (ASFC), with financial support from World Affairs Canada. Karina joined the San Pedro Legal Clinic in 2017, where she served 2 terms of 8 months each.