Today the AIDS Law Project, represented on a pro bono basis by Bowman Gilfillan Attorneys, was admitted as a party in the application for the appointment of Dr Ann Skelton as a curator ad litem to represent the interests of unaccompanied children living at the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg. A curator ad litem is appointed by the Court to legally represent people where they are unable to represent themselves.
The Minister for Social Development, the Gauteng MEC for Health and Social Development and the City of Johannesburg were cited for their interests as the government departments primarily responsible for the welfare of children at national, provincial and local level.
The High Court ultimately made an order, by agreement between the ALP and the Minister and MEC, appointing Dr Skelton as curator ad litem to 56 unaccompanied children who have been living at the Church.
Amongst the thousands of refugees who have been living at the CMC, there are a significant number of children without parents. The Legal Resources Centre, together with the ALP, has been advising Bishop Paul Verryn on how to ensure that the children are best protected.
We believe that the appointment of an independent curator is the most appropriate way to protect the best interests of the children. In terms of the court order, Dr Skelton is authorized to:
- To investigate all issues pertaining to where the minor children are living and should live and to determine what is in the best interests of the minor children regarding such issues as may be relevant;
- To consult with and have access to the minor children in order to ascertain the views of the children;
- To consult with and have access to other relevant role-players in order to assess all the options and to consider what is the best interests of the children;
- To give instructions to attorneys and counsel and any other professionals on behalf of the minor children in respect of the determination and/or enforcement of any of the minor children’s rights through further litigation or otherwise;
- To take all steps necessary including signing on behalf of the minor children and ratifying all steps on behalf of the minor children to protect the rights and best interests of the minor children;
- To negotiate and liaise on behalf of the minor children with interested parties and with any private or governmental or inter-governmental institution or official in respect of the enforcement of the child’s rights and interests;
- Directing Dr Skelton to report in respect of the aforesaid to the Court by 8 February 2010;
- Permitting any other interested party to submit, within two weeks, commentary on Dr Skelton’s report; and
- Directing that no person may make unilateral decisions affecting the interests of the minor children without the involvement of the curator ad litem.