Wednesday, December 9, 2009

No Justice for Children - Yet

güncel Yonca CİNGÖZ 08.12.2009 - While the number of children in detention in eastern and south-eastern Anatolia is ever on the rise, the draft law for children charged with terrorism has been shelved. Yet, the matter holds a pressing urgency. Lawyer Yılmaz talks about arbitrary detention of children and forged evidence.
In times when the number of children imprisoned under charges of terrorism in eastern and south-eastern Anatolia is constantly rising, the ruling Justice and Development Party (DTP) proposed a draft law intended to ease trial conditions for children accused of terrorism. This is the first legal amendment in the scope of DTP's democratic initiative. However, the parliamentary Justice Commission withdrew the bill from its agenda.

Justice Commission president Ahmet İyimaya announced that the discussion of the bill was cancelled because of "technical reasons", referring to the tight schedule of the commission's agenda.
What the bill offers

The draft law concerns 115 children in eastern and south-eastern Turkey who have been sentenced to up to 30 years imprisonment applying the Anti-Terror Law (TMK) because they allegedly threw stones at policemen during demonstrations. The bill offers a decrease of prison sentence for other children to be tried under the same article. It also foresees the possibility to convert low sentences into rehabilitation measures.

The bill envisages the application of the protecting clauses offered by the Child Protection Act and the prosecution of all children before a juvenile high criminal court regardless of age or crime.

According to the bill, a social worker takes care of children that have been taken into custody and the children's statements will not be taken by the anti-terror branch but by the children's branch instead. Interrogations will be carried out by children's prosecutors and social workers will assist the children during court hearings. The children will benefit from the right to postpone the verdict and to convert prison sentence into other sorts of sanctions.

If the child's guilt is proven, the judge can still decree not to hand down a prison sentence but instead convert the sentence into social service in places such as schools, libraries or other social service units.
The current situation - Children detained arbitrarily

Lawyer Kezban Yılmaz from Diyarbakır has studied almost 400 files concerned with children tried under articles of the TMK. Yılmaz gave an insight based on his research and experiences:

"The criminal law goes from the evidence towards the suspect. Whereas in the interrogations of the children, the police go from the suspect towards the evidence. First of all they determine 'This is the defendant' and then they create evidence against the defendant. They pick a child and conduct a raid of the child's home to search the clothes. If they do not find what they are looking for, they go and buy even things like bracelets to present as evidence. The prosecutors send the children directly to court on the accounts of the police officers. 90 percent of the children appearing before the judge are detained. Especially for children older than 15 years of age the probability to be released is very, very low since they appeared before a High Criminal judge".
Contradictory statements of 'witnesses'

"80 percent of the files lack any concrete evidence of the children having been involved in a demonstration. There is only the arrest protocol and the police accounts. These children receive prison sentences based on statements of the police forces saying 'I saw this person, he/she threw stones and shouted slogans, he/she ran away and we caught him/her'. Furthermore the police accounts are illogic most of the time. The police say that the child's face was disguised apart from the eyes during the incident but on the other hand they claim to have seen the person and to be able to recognize the child now. And these statements are accepted in court", Yilmaz pointed out.

The children are found guilty of "spreading illegal propaganda", "committing a crime on behalf of an illegal organization" or of opposition to the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations. Yilmaz highlighted that in a case regarding children being supposedly involved in an incident following a funeral ceremony in September, the detained children face prison sentence of 13.5 years at least. (YC/VK)