Justice for Children

Urgent Appeal from the Callers for Justice for Children in Turkey

The Callers for Justice for Children in Turkey have sent the following appeal to all human rights organisations and activists around the world:

Thousands of children are now interrogated, judged, sentenced and imprisoned in Turkey as if they are adults under the TMK (Terörle Mücadele Kanunu / Prevention of Terrorism Act) adopted in 1991.

These children whom we call the Child Victims of TMK have no access to pedagogic support, and are unable to continue their education.

Some of them stay in the same prison wards with adults and visits from family members are prevented. Their once-in-a-fortnight permissions for sports/games given are often rescinded.

Turkey signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 19 years ago, which is completely ignored under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Like in all other countries of the world, the Child Protection Act in Turkey accepts the tenet that “there are no guilty children, but children who are pushed to crime” and considers that “punishment” is the last resort to be applied to a child. But this principle is also disregarded in the new TMK, which treats and prosecutes children of 12-18 as if they were not children. The situation for children of 15-18 is particularly serious.

Since few police officers, soldiers, district attorneys, wardens and other civil servants are trained in according to the Child Protection Act, the Child Victims of TMK are subjected to material and moral maltreatment and torture, or are even sometimes killed during arrest, interrogation and imprisonment.

Images of a 15-year-old whose arm was broken in 2008 in the city Hakkari by a policeman — who then arrested him for “resisting a civil servant” — are horrifying.

Turkey is the only country in the world that celebrates a Children’s Day as an official national holiday on the 23rd of April, but the horrifying images of the 14-year-old S.T. whose head was bashed with the butt of a gun by a special team member during the Children’s Day in 2009 has turned it into a most disgraceful black-comedy.

The 14-year-old Abdülsamet Erip fell in the river while running away from the police and died during the same 23rd of April operation. We don’t mind disclosing his name because “dead children” live by their names and no any extra harm can be caused.

The next day, 7-year-old Marziye Aslan was crushed to death under a police panzer in the city of Van. On April 27th, this time in the Cizre town of Şırnak province, the 10-year-old Ş.B. was critically wounded by a gas bomb hitting him on the head.

The number of children who have lost their lives through police and military violence in Turkey since 1991 is 328. Among them were babies who had not even been given a name.

New children are added every day to the Child Victims of TMK in Turkey.

Whatever the race, religion, nation, class or ideology of their parents, whatever their own gender, children are only CHILDREN.

Every child in the world should have the right to live like children and to be treated like children. This is their inalienable right.

We are appealing for your attention and help.

Support the Child Victims of TMK in Turkey.

Call on the state of Turkey to free these children at once, to offer them rehabilitation after they are set free and to pass the necessary legislation immediately so that other children shall not suffer from similar violations of children’s rights from now on.

There is something that each and every one can do for children.

PROBLEMS OF CHILDREN WHO ARE EXPOSED

LAW ON STRUGGLE AGAINST TERRORISM

I- PROBLEM

When the children between the ages of fifteen to eighteen are allegedas, accused of or recognised as having infringed the Law on Struggle Against Terrorism (hereinafter referred to as “ LSAT”), they are subject to the same rules as the adults in respect of the detention, arrest, place of jurisdiction, proceedings, nature of punishmetn and execution of punishment.

When the children between the ages of twelve to fifteen are alleged as, accused of or recognized as having infringed the LSAT, they are subjected to protective orders with regard detention, arrest, place of jurisdiction, proceedings, arrest of judgement, suspension of sentence, converson to imprisonment and other options, and yet these children are still subjected to the rules applied to the adults with regard to the punishment.

As a result, when children between the ages of twelve to eighteen are alleged as, accused of or recognized as having infringed the LSAT , the fact that they are children is ignored partially for those between the ages of twelve to fifteen and completely for those between the ages of fifteen to eighteen.

This very problem is a threat to any and all children living in Turkey regardless of the place they live, the language the speak, the religion they believe and the ethnical identity they beolng to. Before all, this is a very important junevile issue. On the other hand, it grew larger in some aspects upon amendment of the LSAT in 2006, but in the heart of it, this is a problem that emerged approximately twenty years ago when LSAT was accepted.

II- CONCRETE PROBLEMS

In the respect of the children victims of LSAT, the principles are mostly breached b the legislative dispositions as well as their application. Although the following regulations wpuld originally be implemented for adults, it is especially and explicitly mentioned in respective provisions that they are also applicable for children. The major problems of children who suffer from LSAT are referred below:

A) Problems for Children between the Ages of 15 to 18

The investigation is conducted not by the child’s department prosecutors but by the specially authorized prosecutors, who are responsible for investigation process under the Law on Struggle Against Terrorism.
Although the testimony of children should be taken by the child’s department prosecutors in person, for investigations within the scope of , the testimony of children is sometimes taken by the police.
While the testimony of children is taken, the possibility of taking it under auspices of an almoner is not applied.
The detention period of twenty four hours is applied for forty eight (48) hours for children as well. This period can increase up to five (5) days for collective crime allegations.
If the intended purpose of the investigation is likely to be risked, a relative of the child in detention is notified only upon order of the public prosecutor. However, for judicial crimes, a relative or another person determined by the concerned person in detention can be notified, again, upon order of the public prosecutor. Accordingly, provided that the child, arrested or in detention, has no possibility to reach his/her relative during the detention period, in this case preventing the child from notifying another person leads to the fact that the child stays in detention with further notice to anyone.
While taking the testimony of a child, only one lawyer is permitted to be present without a power of attorney. However, for judicial crimes, three lawyers are permitted to be present without a power of attorney.
Upon demand of the public prosecutor and order of the judge, the right of the child in detention to see his/her lawyer can be restricted to twenty four hours. No testimony is taken during that time. However, no such restriction applies to the judicial crimes.
Maximum period of arrest in high criminal courts that is provided in law is not applied to the children who are judged within the scope of LSAT. Maximum period of arrest, which could be at most three years in compulsory cases, will not apply to the children until the end of 2010. However, since 2011, the same period will apply as double to the children who are judged within the scope of LSAT.
Provided that the lawsuit is brought to the court within a two-year period of time till the end of 2010, the state of being arrested maximum for two years during the investigation process will also apply to the children. On condition that the lawsuit still continues following the two-year arrest, it will be possible to extend the period of arrest with no specific upper limit for children who are judged for crimes that require imprisonment above seven years.
Because the possibility of the adjourn of explanation of the sentence, which is only applicable to the crimes requiring a punishment of two years at most, and which means that the sentence bears no legal consequences, is forbidden, it cannot apply to children.
Because deferment, which is only applicable to the children who commit crimes requiring three years at most, is forbidden, it cannot apply to the children who are judged within the scope of LSAT, either.
Because conversion to judicial fine or other optional sanctions, which are only applicable to the crimes requiring at most one year, is forbidden, it cannot apply to the children, either.

B) Problems for Children between the Ages of 12 to 18

The punishment of children who are judged for the crimes within the scope of LSAT can be increased as half in any case. However, the punishment inflicted following such an increase is reduced depending on the age of the child in question. However, no increase depending on the nature of the crime should apply to children who are punished. The punishment inflicted on children should only be subjected to a reduction depending on his/her age.
The applicable provisions of conditional release in case of adjourn of two third of the punishment inflicted for judicial crimes are made depended on the condition of adjourn of three fourths for children who are punished within the scope of LSAT.
There is no obstacle for gross disciplinary sanctions applicable to the enforcement of crimes within the scope of LSAT as well as the solitary confinement to become applicable to children as well.

III- WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?

In order to resolve these problems regarding the children legally;

1. A clean arrangement should be done indicating that Article 5 of the LSAT that increases the punishment,

2. As well as Article 17 regarding the investigations and enforcement of punishments cannot apply to children.

3. The provisions specified in Article 9 of the same law that leads children who are between the ages of 15 to 18 to be judged at high criminal court with special authority should be abolished.

4. Again, the prohibition of adjourn of explanation of the sentence, which is provided for children between the ages of 15 to 18, and of optional sanctions as specified in Article 13 should be abolished.

5. Another important point is that an arrangement should be done indicating that the provision 7/2-a of LSAT, which enables the individuals who attend the demonstrations that end up with an illegal organization propaganda are punished as if the individuals who make propaganda for illegal organizations because they cover their face partially or entirely, cannot apply to children. In other words, children who attend demonstrations and cover his/her face either in part or in full should not be inflicted with a separate punishment due to such an action.

6. Finally, a clear provision should be added to LSAT indicating that the Child Welfare Law should apply, without exception, to the children who are impeached within the scope of LSAT.

IV- CONCLUSION

Turkish Law System recognizes the basic principles of Child Welfare Law. There are clear provisions in the Constitutional Law in this regard. The UN Convention on the Rights of Children was accepted and executed, plus quite detailed and protective arrangements were made with the Child Welfare Law, thus the legal basis for an advanced system of child welfare has been established. Juvenile Courts, Police Departments for Children were founded, thus structural initiatives were taken. There are available Children Departments that employ an almoner continuously. The criteria considering children’s psychology in selecting children’s judge, prosecutor and law-enforcement officer are implemented. All these components strongly underline the inclination of Turkish Law System to adapt the child welfare law thoroughly with all aspects and to establish it structurally. Therefore, differing practices of the system regarding the children who suffer from LSAT is definitely a deviation. And this deviation should be eliminated.





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