Saturday, January 30, 2010

Draft Law Pending - Children in Prison and on Trial

BIANET 27-28 01 2010- A court sentenced a 15-year old girl to 8 years imprisonment. Tanrıseven and Aktaş from the Batman and Diyarbakır Bar Association respectively urged the goverment to pass necessary legal amendments as soon as possible. However, these changes will still be insufficient to protect the children.
The Diyarbakır Special Authority High Criminal Court sentenced a 15-year old girl from Batman in south-eastern Turkey to 8 years imprisonment in the scope of the Anti-Terror Act. Batman Bar Association Chair Yusuf Tanrıseven and Eshat Aktaş, Coordinator of the Children's Right Centre of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, evaluated the court decision and urged the government to enact the suspended draft laws regarding the prosecution of children as soon as possible.
Prison sentence in first hearing

In the first hearing held on 26 January, 15-year old girl B.S. was sentenced to a total of 13.5 years imprisonment. The sentence was reduced to 7 years 9 month because of the young age of the defendant. The girl stood accused of "committing crimes on behalf of an illegal organization", "meetings and demonstrations in opposition to the law" and "spreading propaganda for an illegal organization".

The girl was taken into custody in the course of a demonstration in Batman on 9 October 2009. She did not accept the charges brought up against her in the hearing. 15-year old B.S. said that was beaten by the police and forced to accept the accusations. However, she stated that she did not know the meaning of the term "propaganda".
"Almost 1,300 children tried or in detention"

In an interview with bianet, Aktaş from Diyarbakır explained that almost 1300 children were detained or tried under the Anti-Terror Act (TMY) in the pre-dominantly Kurdish region of eastern and south-eastern Anatolia in 2009.

"Under the rule of law, the main criteria are objective regardless of persons, incidents and geography. Whereas the implementation to the contrary varies in respect to the incident, the person and the geography".

The government had suspended the draft law regarding children to be tried before juvenile courts. Tanrıseven and Aktaş urged the government to enact the stalled draft law as soon as possible. Otherwise, hundreds of children are likely to experience the same sort of victimization.
Stalled amendments not sufficient

An analysis carried out by the Justice for Children Group revealed that the foreseen amendments are not sufficient to protect children "victimized by the TMY". The initiative pointed out the following issues when the draft law was brought to the agenda:

Blocking increase of punishments for children: A 90 months prison sentence for children can only reduced by 20 months according to the amendments. There are children who received prison sentences of up to 190 months. This clearly reveals that the proposed amendment of a 20-months mitigation does not solve the problem.

Prosecution of 16-18-year old children at juvenile courts: It is important to try all children at juvenile high criminal courts, regardless of age. Judges at juvenile criminal courts will not be able to take any different decisions from the ones currently made, if the referring lay articles will not be amended.

Suspension of sentences, redemption, postponed disclosure of the verdict and alternative sanctions: It is important to allow alternative sanctions for the age group of 16-18-year olds. However, in order to be able to implement an alternative sanction like postponement for instance, the sentence must not be longer than three years. Therefore, the article allowing sentences of more than three years for children needs to be amended.

According to the Justice for Children Group, six articles of the TMY and one article each of the Turkish Criminal Code and the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations need to be amended for the protection of children. (TK/VK)

UNICEF Report about Children Accused for "Terror Crimes"

In a report stemming from visits to the provinces of Adana and Hakkari in March 2009, UNICEF Turkey demands to protect the right to life for children who attended demonstrations. The report furthermore recommends amendments of the Anti-Terror Law.

The Turkish representation of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said that the government did not yield any results regarding the prosecution of children that participated in demonstrations and as a deterrent stand accused for terrorist crimes. UNICEF recommended to refrain from trying children "under the same conditions as adults" to prevent a victimization of the children.

The "Field report about children standing accused of terror crimes because of attending demonstrations" contains seven recommendations. It is based on talks and meetings during visits to Adana on the eastern Mediterranean coast between 9-11 March and Hakkari on the south-eastern tip of the country on 23-24 March 2009. A cooperation of UNICEF Turkey and the Human Rights Department of the Prime Ministry visited the provinces and talked to public officials as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations.

The amendments of the criminal code made in 2006 due to an escalation of the clashes regarding the Kurdish question paved the way to prosecute children under aggravated conditions. Even though the government announced further amendments in the scope of the "democratic initiative", the corresponding discussion in the parliament was postponed after an attack of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on soldiers in Tokat (central Anatolia).

"Anti-Terror Law needs to be amended"

The recommendations of the report can be summarized as follows:
1 - The report states that "interventions during and after demonstrations seriously jeopardizes the children's right to life". Precautions against torture and ill-treatment should be increased.
2 - "Legal amendments should be made to ensure the prosecution of children at specific courts and the implementation of specific procedures. The children should be tried before juvenile courts". Therefore, the report recommends the amendment of articles 9 and 13 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK). Regarding crimes related to children, the "principle of one single responsibility for several crimes" should be acknowledged.

Children should not be treated like adults

3 - "The implementations must provide for the children's needs and should be done in accordance with the basic principles of the juvenile judiciary system. It must be possible to intervene against unlawful proceedings". The report particularly emphasizes to ensure that only police officers trained to deal with juveniles should be concerned with children; children should be taken to children branches instead of anti-terrorism branches and should be brought to the prosecutor right away; their families should be informed immediately and access to the file must be provided for the interrogation by the lawyers. Additionally, the indictments should refrain from keeping the children out of school. Effective measurements should be established to prevent children from being detained together with adults and to control that the entire process advances according to the law.
4 - Regulations should be developed that meet the children's needs and give them the opportunity to develop. Education should be of high quality and free of charge. The number of play areas should increase. The allocation of a larger budget to this area is only one of the recommendations.
5 - The political, social and economic dimensions of this problem should be recognized in order to work out political, social and economic solutions.
6 - Susceptibility should be increased for precautions regarding the protection of children from risks and their right to organize and participate in meetings and demonstrations.
7 - Systems for collecting and compiling data should be reinforced to track implementations and to establish the necessary politics in due time.