A total of 18 children, who were arrested from Kotido and Napak districts for allegedly getting involved in several criminal offences, were on Saturday set free in Moroto district.
The juveniles, aged between eight and 14 years, were arrested by a joint force of the army and the Police on charges of unlawful possession of firearms.
Other cases included theft of animals and murder. The Moroto district senior probation officer, Moses Ssuubi Lokoroi, said the children were not charged during the mandatory period of 90 days in Police custody.
â€œUnder the Childrenâ€™s Act, they are supposed to appear before the magistrate within three months,â€ he said, adding that pressure from concerned childrenâ€™s bodies led to their discharge. The children had been detained in Moroto and Mbale Police stations.
The UNICEF regional head, Narinder Sharma, said his agency was still negotiating for the release of 20 more kids still in custody. Accompanied by the country representative, Sapra Sharma, Narinder appealed to the justice system to handle issues of children expeditiously.
â€œWe have about three juveniles who have overstayed in the cells,â€ he noted. The children were discharged in the presence of the UNICEF country representative, Sapra, after they appeared in court on Friday in Moroto.
Those charged with capital offences were granted bail and others were cautioned. Narinder said the UN agency was concerned that the children were being kept in the prisons, rather than in school.
â€œWe are not pushing for their cases to be compromised, but we want the legal framework followed,â€ he said. Sapra was in Karamoja to meet the First Lady and Karamoja affairs state minister, Janet Museveni, on issues of development in the region.
18 Karimojong children freed