As part of the strengthening child justice system project in the country, the second child friendly pre-trial centre opened near the police head quarters in Thimphu yesterday.

Chief of Police, Col Chimi Dorji, said that as the number of people in conflict with law increased, Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) was not ready to accommodate all, as detention rooms got crowded. “Though law demanded that we provide separate detention rooms for women and children, the police could not provide.”

A press release from RBP stated that with a clean and homely atmosphere, the centre is expected to give children the required privacy. It also stated that it would contribute towards fulfilling the legal mandates and help in sheltering children who come in conflict with law.

RBP’s Project Manager, Major Tsheten Norbu said that the main objective of the pre-trial centre was to provide separate shelter to children who had yet to attend hearing. “Because of petty crime, children were put in together with regular adult offenders. Children could get influenced and brainwashed by adults.”

He said that there are chances of children getting ideas to commit crimes. The centre would accommodate about 20 children and would provide facilities such as lockers and toilets.

Save the Children funded the construction of the centre. A press release from Save the Children stated that the facilities protect the rights of children who come in contact with law as enshrined in the Child Care and Protection Act. It also stated that it promotes child friendly justice system in the country.

After conviction, children are sent to a juvenile centre, Youth Development rehabilitation Centre (YDRC) at Tshimasham, which was inaugurated on June 24, last year. Major Tsheten Norbu said that the rehabilitation centre provides space for recreational activities such as basketball, and skills development such as tailoring and embroidery.

He said that the pre-trial centre in Phuentsholing, which was inaugurated on July 13 last year, would accommodate about 10 minors.

RBP in collaboration with Save the Children, National Commission for Women and Children, Royal Court of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, Bhutan National Legal Institute, and Nazhoen Lamtoen are involved in the project.

According to Save the Children, the ‘strengthening child justice system’ project aims to improve the living conditions of Bhutanese juvenile population through enhancement of the child justice system, by ensuring protection and promotion of children’s rights through child friendly approaches.

Save the Children, Italy supported the construction of the centre with Nu 6.5 million.

Rinchen Zangmo