Children received disproportionate and unjust sentences

Adana 6th , 7th and 8th High Penal Court sentenced 33 children to a total of 129 years, 3 months and 15 days of imprisonment for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization or its aims ” and being a member of a terrorist organization.

It is against UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and also the European Convention on Human Rights that these children’s cases were heard in special heavy penal courts.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child determines that everyone under the age of 18 is a child and the European Court of Human Rights has advised that children should be tried separately from adults and with special care and that measures of investigation and trial particular to children should be applied. However in Turkey, amendments to the Anti-Terror Law in 2006 enabled prosecutors to launch court cases against children aged between 15 and 18 in special heavy penal courts designed for adults (these courts were formally known as the State Security Courts).

The Supreme Court’s General Criminal Board (Yargıtay Ceza Genel kurulu) has established in a similar case that “even though the suspects are not members of a terrorist organization they committed a crime in the name of an organization and are sentenced as members”. Likewise, the Supreme Court ordered children to be sentenced for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization or its aims” if they had made a victory sign in a demonstration, or if they had any rocks in their hands they could be tried for resisting the police force. Children were now not to be viewed as children but as having responded to the orders of an illegal organizations (the PKK). While the court in Diyarbakır indicated that it could not establish that the children were connected to the illegal organization, the court in Ankara indicated that somehow the children were, that they had watched Roj TV and had been influenced from there. Thus in Adana children were understood to have responded to the “general call of the organization” and gone out on to the streets and thrown stones at the police.

Adana is one of the places where the decision of the Supreme Court General Criminal Board has been implemented mostly harshly. In the first three months of 2009 33 children were convicted of membership and propaganda and were sentenced to imprisonment for years.

According to Ministry of Justice statistics, in 2006 and 2007, there were 4784 trials under the Anti-Terror Law; 11,720 people were tried, 1588 of them children. As detentions and arrests (resulting in individuals being remanded to prison pending trial) multiplied in parallel with mass demonstrations, it can be said that approximately ten thousand people are currently on trial under terrorism legislation and that thousands of them are children.

In January, February and March 2009, 82 children between the ages of 13 and 17 were taken into custody Twenty-eight out of these 82 children were placed in pre-trial prison detention, and 54 children were released pending trial.

In January, February and March 2009, 55 people of 18 and over were taken into custody. Twenty-six people out of 55 were placed in pre-trial prison detention, and 29 people were released pending trial.

Silencing opposition

Actions and demonstrations organized by political parties, associations and legal platforms can be counted as illegal with reference to Article 220 of the Turkish Penal Code. As in other parts of Turkey, the demonstrations of political parties, associations and legal platforms in Adana have been counted as illegal, members of these organizations have been detained and placed in pre-trial prison detention. In this way many legal actions were counted as illegal.

Freedom of expression is restricted with the application of Article 220 of the Turkish Penal Code, and this article should be repealed to create a more enabling environment for freedom of expression.

In January, February and March 2009 Adana IHD received 31 applications for torture and ill treatment. These applications are summarized below:

• Case of M.K. (17) : On 3.2.2009 I joined the demonstration in Gulbahcesi neighbourhood protesting against Abdullah Ocalan’s solitary confinement (hücre uygulamasını) in İmralı Prison. Police intervened with pepper gas and batons. Police also threw stones at us. One of the stones hit my eye. I lost consciousness and fell down. My friends took me to the state hospital where it was determined that there is was an eye rupture. Now I am been treated at the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV).

• Case of Sabit Yıldız: He indicated that he visited his son Sabahattin Yıldız on 22.01.2009 at Kürkçüler Prison and was informed that his son and cell-mate Deniz had been beaten by prison guards, and this was seen by the bruises on his son’s body.

• Case of Zeki Özbay: He informed IHD that his son Ş.Ö. had been taken into custody for joining a demonstration, had been roughed up by the police on the street, that the next day he had been placed in pre-trial prison detention, even though his medical condition- psoriasis- requires continuous medical care and he is a student at the Sabanci Vocational High School.

• A reporter was beaten and taken into custody: A reporter, Ersin Çelik, from the Dicle News Agency (DIHA) applied to IHD, stating that he went to Barbaros neighbourhood to cover the opening of the DTP’s (Democratic Society Party) election office there. The police had intervened with batons against the crowd assembled in front of the election office who were shouting slogans, and while the reporter was recording the scene, a plain-clothed police officer had intervened and he had been grabbed by the hair and dragged along the ground by the police, put in a police car where he had continued to be sworn at and to be beaten. Another person in the police car was also beaten and sworn at in the same way. He said there were signs of having been hit on his body and face.

• Students were beaten for protesting against the economic crisis and the Justice and Development Party government: Ünsal Dorak applied to IHD. He said that while protesting against the death of A Kadir Uçar’s son (Ucar was a victim of the economic crisis in Tekirdag) in front of the AKP building, police intervened and roughed up protesters who carried banners and burnt a symbolic effigy of the prime minister. Dorak was detained along with Halkevi members Engin Sarkın, Mehmet Koca, Abdullah Kaan Bikel and Özlem Yalçınkaya, and they were sworn at and insulted as they were taken in the police car to the station.

• Case of H.A. (16): H.A. (16) applied to IHD for his case; he said that he was taken into custody with eight of his friends for joining the demonstration in the Gülbahce neighborhood of Adana on 15.02.2009 on the anniversary of the capture of Abdullah Ocalan by government forces. H.A. said that there was heavy verbal assault by police officers of the Rapid Deployment Force (Cevik Kuvvet) against all the eight children, that they were kept in the Anti-Terror Branch of the police station for 5 hours, that after that they had been taken to the Children’s Department of the Police at night. H. A. reported that he was released pending trial in the morning. H.A. continued his statement: On 23.02.2009 in front of the Bedrettin Demirel Primary School in Gulbahcesi neighborhood, he was approach by a plain-clothed police officer he had known before, made to get into his car and brought to an empty place, and there the police had told him that he wanted his help and would help him in return. He said that the officer asked him to inform them if any protests or demonstrations would be organized in the neighborhood and gave H.A. a SIM card (telephone number 0506 3598864) and asked him to contact him from this number. H.A. said that he was afraid and had accepted this, but that because of it he felt very badly affected.

• Case of A.B. (17): Şefik Alagaş informed IHD that he visited his nephew in Pozantı Juvenile Prison on 3.3.2009 and that during the visit he learned that his nephew had been taken to the dentist because of a toothache, and that he had been tied up during the medical treatment. He informed IHD that he saw bruises which have occurred in his arms and wrists as the ties were so tight and had still not healed two weeks after the incident.

• Case of S.O. (16): Mikail Oygur applied to İHD with S.O.’s case. He said that his brother S.O. was taken from DTP election office in Gurselpasa neigborhood on 26.2.2009 accused of having thrown rocks at a public bus. Police had beaten S.O. with batons as they took him into custody. Other people taken into custody with his brother informed Mikail Oygur that S.O. had been made to wait 4 hours in the Anti-Terror Department of the police although he while his skull was broken in four places, was offered no medical care during this time, and was then taken the forensic medical examination and after that to the Children’s Branch of the police. S.O. stayed in custody that night, in the morning he was taken into court and remanded to pre-trial prison detention. While he was taken into prison, the guards reportedly beat him and kicked him in the stomach. Mikail Oygur told that they had complained to the prosecutor of ill treatment and torture, presenting the bloodied clothes and medical report on his brother as evidence.

• Case of H.D (17): İbrahim Dündar informed IHD that his brother’s son H.D. (17) was taken into custody at the opening of the DTP election office in Barbaros neigborhood accused of shouting illegal slogans and doing a victory sign, and that he was placed in pre-trial prison detention. İbrahim Dündar informed İHD that H.D. has an undiagnosed medical condition and has to eat food cooked with a certain oil which they get from Germany.

• Case of A.B. (15): Safiye Bayna applied to IHD regarding his son’s case. A:B. was taken into custody on 17.02.2009 in a demonstration in the Ova neighborhood, accused of throwing rocks at the police and shouting illegal slogans. A.B. was held in custody for 3 days, after that he was taken into court and transfered to Kurkculer Prison firstly and after that to Pozantı Prison. On 24 02.2009 Safiye Bayna visited his son in Pozantı prison and she was informed that soldiers wanted A. B. to strip naked at the entrance of prison, that he had refused on the grounds that it was undignified, that he had been beaten by soldiers because of his refusal, that he had fainted, that he had been held in Kurkculer Prison for 2 days and after that taken to Pozantı Prison. As A.B. had been in prison before, the guardians had known him and because of that A.B. was beaten by guardians saying “are you here again?”

• Case of Naim Arslan and others: Naim Arslan was taken into custody with Tevfik Arslan, A. Ali Arslan, Dündar Arslan and Y. K. (born 1994), F. İ (born 1994), R. İ (born 1995), İ. İ (born 1994) and Ş. İ who are children. Physical and verbal assault occurred when they were taken into custody by gendarmerie accused of participating in an illegal demonstration on 15.02.2009 in the Misis area. They were kept standing up in the gendarmerie station until morning and were taken to court and released pending trial. In the court they had requested for their handcuffs to be opened to eat some food brought by their relatives, but this was refused and they had to eat with their handcuffs on.

• Case of O.S. (15): O.S. applied to IHD on 18.3.2009 saying that he was taken into custody accused of joining an illegal protest on 21 October 2008 and taken to the Anti-Terror Branch of the polie with three of his friends. He said that they were not allowed to sit down for four hours and that police had beaten them. After four hours they were taken to the Children’s Branch of the police and later in the morning taken to court and remanded to prison. At the entrance of the Kurkculer prison the soldiers and guardians made them strip naked, threw cold water on them and beat them. The children fainted because of the physical assault. After staying 6 days in Kurkculer Prison they were transferred to Pozantı Prison with handcuffs on. After 3 months in prison, O.S. was released after his first trial hearing, was convicted of membership of an illegal organization and of making propaganda for a terrorist organization or its aims. His case is now at the Supreme Court. If his sentence is approved by the Supreme Court, he will be back in prison.

• Case of T.T. (17): Beşir Tekin informed IHD that his son T.T. (17) was taken into custody accused of joining an illegal protest on 15 February 2009, and remanded to prison. Beşir Tekin visited his son on 24 March 2009 and informed that his son was taken to Kurkculer Prison firstly where he and his friends had been subjected to physical assault by guardians until the morning, were were sprayed with water with a hose and were beaten heavily. The next morning they were sent to Pozantı Prison. He said that he was devastated listening to his son.

Torture goes unrecorded

The changes to the Anti-Terror Law and the Law on the Duties and Powers of the Police, have opened the way to torture and ill treatment and especially to excessive use of force during demonstrations, as our findings shows. The findings show a high incidence of brutal beating, verbal and physical abuse not only in the police stations but also on the streets. Because it happens before the custody process starts, before the suspects are registered, in police vehicles, and on the streets, it is difficult to investigate these cases and this facilitates torture going unpunished. So, systematic torture and ill treatment continues; to end torture and ill treatment and to ensure effective investigation of law enforcement officers legal regulations should be introduced immediately.

Human Rights Association Adana Branch

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