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Gabon[1] [print]

Last edited: February 2006

 

Summary and Analysis

 

To date, it does not appear that child protective proceedings are provided for by the laws of Gabon.  Thus, we were unable to find any specific statute dictating how the voices of children would be heard in such proceedings.

 

The Constitution of Gabon provides for a basic right to liberty of thought, expression, and communication.   It also provides the State is obligated to protect children from exploitation and from moral, intellectual, or physical neglect.[2]   Gabon reports that respect for the child's views is guaranteed by the Constitution, and by the Penal Code with regard to hearing the child's point of view in court cases.[3]   It does not reference precise legislation within the Penal Code though, and we were unable to locate specific legislation protecting the right of the child to be heard. 

 

Gabon also reports that "In cases of ill-treatment or imprisonment or in deciding which parent is to be given custody of the child in cases of separation, the court asks the Youth Protection Service to seek the child's views."[4]  We found no evidence of such a provision in any legislation though.  In legislation regarding imprisonment of the child for example, the law simply states that child will be referred to the president of the court, who will then rule on his placement.[5]  No mention is made of a Youth Protection Service or of a requirement to seek the views of the child.

 

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has noted that that "the coexistence of customary law and statutory law does affect the implementation of the Convention in the State party where traditional practices are not conducive to children's rights."[6]  Gabon itself acknowledges a similar problem, and reports that parents tend to control their children as a result of the influence of custom which prohibits freedom of thought and conscience within families.[7]  The country also notes that this attitude could be due to a mistaken interpretation of the Gabonese Constitution that authorizes parents to guide children in their religious and moral education.[8]

 

It is worth noting that Gabon also faces numerous other pressing social problems and that these may take precedent at the current time.  For example, Gabon is a destination country for children trafficked from other countries for the purposes of forced labor.  Recently, the government for the first time publicly recognized its responsibility to care for foreign trafficking victims found within its borders and took unprecedented action to combat child trafficking.[9]

 

Gabon signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child on January 26, 1990 and ratified it on February 9, 1994.  It signed the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on February 27, 1992, but has yet to ratify it.

 

Despite our best efforts, we were unable to find a contact person for this jurisdiction.

 

Sources of Law [10]

 

Original Text

 

International Law

 

Convention relative aux droits de l'enfant[11]

Article 12

1. Les Etats parties garantissent à l'enfant qui est capable de discernement le droit d'exprimer librement son opinion sur toute question l'intéressant, les opinions de l'enfant étant dûment prises en considération eu égard à son âge et à son degré de maturité.

2. A cette fin, on donnera notamment à l'enfant la possibilité d'être entendu dans toute procédure judiciaire ou administrative l'intéressant, soit directement, soit par l'intermédiaire d'un représentant ou d'une organisation approprié, de façon compatible avec les règles de procédure de la législation nationale.

 

Constitution

 

Constitution (adopted 14 March 1991)

 

TITRE PRELIMINAIRE

 

DES PRINCIPES ET DES DROITS FONDAMENTAUX

 

Article premier, 2[12]

 

La liberté de conscience, de pensée, d'opinion, d'expression, de communication, la libre pratique de la religion sont garanties à tous, sous réserve du respect de l'ordre public.

 

Article premier, 16[13]

 

Les soins donnés aux enfants et leur éducation constituent, pour les parents, un droit naturel et un devoir qu'ils exercent sous la surveillance et avec l'aide de l'Etat et des collectivités publiques. Les parents ont le droit, dans le cadre de l'obligation scolaire, de décider de l'éducation morale et religieuse de leurs enfants. Les enfants ont vis-à-vis de l'Etat, les mêmes droits en ce qui concerne aussi bien l'assistance que leur développement physique, intellectuel et moral.

 

Article premier, 17[14]

 

La protection de la jeunesse contre l'exploitation et contre l'abandon moral, intellectuel et physique est une obligation pour l'Etat et les collectivités publiques.

 

Article premier, 18[15]

 

L'Etat garantit l'accès légal de l'enfant et de l'adulte à l'instruction, à la formation professionnelle et à la culture.

 

Statutes

 

Code Pénal

 

Chapitre XIII

 

De la minorité pénale

 

Article 56[16]

 

Lorsqu'un mineur de treize ans se sera rendu coupable de faits qualifiés crime ou délit, il sera déféré au président du tribunal qui pourra prononcer par ordonnance soit la remise de l'enfant à ses parents, à son tuteur, à la personne qui en avait la garde ou à une personne digne de confiance, soit son placement dans une institution ou un établissement public ou privé d'éducation ou de formation professionnelle, ou dans un établissement médical.  Ces measures pourront être rapportées ou modifiées dans les mêmes formes.

 

Article 57[17]

 

Lorsqu'un mineur âgé de treize à dix-huit ans aura commis un crime ou un délit, il sera, dans tous les cas, déféré au juge d'instruction qui s'informera également sur les conditions d'existence et d'éducation de l'enfant.  S'il ne le place sous mandat de dépôt, le magistrat instructeur pourra, par ordonnance spéciale, confier le mineur à toute personne ou institution de son choix, qui en conservera la garde jusqu'à la decision du tribunal.

 

Translation[18]

 

International Law

 

Convention on the Rights of the Child[19]

Article 12

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

 

Constitution

Constitution (adopted 14 March 1991)

 

PRELIMINARY CHAPTER

 

FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES AND RIGHTS

 

First Article, Section 2

 

Liberty of conscience, of thought, of opinion, of expression, of communication, and the freedom to practice religion is guaranteed to all, but is subject to the respect of public order.

 

First Article, Section 16

 

The care of children and their education is a natural right of parents, as well as a duty that they exercise under the surveillance of, and with the help of, the State and public authorities.  Parents have the right, within the framework of compulsory schooling, to determine the moral and religious education of their children.  Children have the right to assistance from the State, and they have the right to their physical, intellectual and moral development from the State. 

 

First Article, Section 17

 

The protection of children from exploitation and from moral, intellectual, or physical neglect is an obligation of the State and the public authorities.

 

First Article, Section 18

 

The State guarantees children and adults lawful access to education, vocational training, and culture.

 

Statutes

 

Penal Code

 

Chapter XIII

 

...

 

Article 56: When a minor of thirteen years of age admits guilt of a crime or a criminal offense, he will be referred to the president of the court, who can rule that the child be sent back to his parents, to his guardian, to the person who has care of him or to a trustworthy person, or who can place him in a institution or a public or private educational establishment or vocational school, or in a medical institution.  These measures can be added to or modified within these same forms.

 

Article 57: When a minor from thirteen to eighteen years of age allegedly commits a crime or a criminal offense, he will, in every case, be referred to an investigating magistrate who will take note of the living conditions and the education of the child.  If the investigating magistrate does not place the minor under a committal order, the examining magistrate may, by special edict/ruling, place the minor to any person or institution of his choice, which will take care of the minor until the court's decision.

 

Additional Resources and Links

 

Human Rights Watch

http://hrw.org/doc/?t=africa&c=gabon

 

UNICEF

http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/gabon.html

 

United States Department of State

Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2005

http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/



 

Endnotes

[1] This page is also available as a .pdf Document, and Word Document.

[2] Gabon Const. art. 1, § 2 available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[3] Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 44 of the Convention: Initial reports of States parties due in 1996, Addendum: Gabon, U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, 19th Sess. at 109, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/41/Add.10 (2001), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[4] Id., at 110.

[5] Code Pénal art.56 (Gabon), available as .pdf Document.

[6] Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 44 of the Convention: Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Gabon, U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, 19th Sess. at 5, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.171 (2002), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[7] U.N. Doc. CRC/C/41/Add.10 at 111, supra note 2.

[8] Gabon Const., supra note 1, at art. 1, § 16.

[9] U.S. Dept. of State, Trafficking in Person's Report June 2005 107-108, available as .pdf Document.

[10] The order of authority of these sources of law is unclear.

[11] Convention relative aux droits de l'enfant, Art. 12, G.A. Res. 44/125, U.N. GAOR, 44th Session, Supp. No. 49, U.N. Doc. A/44/736 (1989), available at http://www.ohchr.org/french/law/crc.htm.

[12] Gabon Const., supra note 1, at art. 1, § 2.

[13] Id., at art. 1, § 16.

[14] Id., at art. 1, § 17.

[15] Id., at art. 1, § 18.

[16] Code Pénal, supra note 4, at art.56.

[17] Id., at art.57.

[18] Unofficial translation by a translator provided by the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization.

[19] United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Art. 12, G.A. Res. 44/125, U.N. GAOR, 44th Session, Supp. No. 49, U.N. Doc. A/44/736 (1989), available at http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/6/crc/treaties/crc.htm

 

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