EU commissioner says Turkey detains too many children

Council of Europe Commissioner for human rights Hammarberg said, "there is a need of radical reform of the juvenile justice system in Turkey."

EU commissioner says Turkey detains too many children


Council of Europe (COE) Commissioner for human rights Thomas Hammarberg said, "there is a need of radical reform of the juvenile justice system in Turkey."

Hammarberg, who paid a visit to Turkey on May 23 and 26, sent letters to the Turkish ministers of justice and internal affairs focusing mainly on juvenile justice, and implementation of anti-terrorist laws, as well as on the human rights of internally displaced and of asylum seekers, the Anadolu Agency said.

In his letter to the justice minister, Hammarberg expressed his concern about the situation of children detained, prosecuted and sentenced particularly under anti-terrorist legislation in east and southeast Turkey.

"Too many children are detained in Turkey. This situation is at variance with international and European standards. Detention of children should be an exceptional measure and a means of last resort," he said.

"The very heavy sentences imposed under the Law on combating terrorism on children for acts deemed minor offences in other jurisdictions raise serious questions of proportionality between the sentences and their aim. I hope that the proposal to reform the anti-terrorist laws and their future application to children will help establish a more child-friendly justice focused on education and alternatives to detention," he said.

Activists say children are being sent to adult prisons after receiving long sentences in anti-terrorist courts, sometimes for offences such as throwing stones at security forces or participating in a protest considered to be supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government, which has passed laws to expand the rights of Kurds in the hope of ending a decades-long conflict with Kurdish separatist rebels, has said it is working to change such punishments.

A bill to reduce penalties for children accused of terrorism-related offences and stipulating that minors be put on trial in juvenile courts is being debated in parliament.

The commissioner also expressed his concerns about long-term pre-trial detention of a number of elected local representatives mainly in southeast Turkey.

In his letter to the interior minister, Hammarberg welcomed the progress achieved with regard to the human rights of internally displaced persons. He underlined the importance to fully and effectively respect their right to return, resettle or integrate locally, and to accelerate implementation of existing action plans.

He highlighted the need to step up de-mining of all contaminated areas and to review the law and practice concerning the system of village guards which is seen by internally displaced persons as an obstacle to their return home.

Addressing the refugee policy, the commissioner recognized steps taken to enhance protection of the human rights of asylum seekers in the stream of mixed migration. "Further and durable improvements in terms of access to the asylum procedures, alternatives to detention and protection of particularly vulnerable groups of migrants, like separated children, are crucial," he said.

Stressing that resettlement of refugees is a major humanitarian issue, Hammarberg noted with concern that the perceived limited capacity in receiving countries might reduce the progress made so far in this field. "It is crucial that all European countries provide for resettlement of refugees. At the same time Turkey should ensure better integration opportunities for those who have to stay a long time in the country," he added.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 08 Temmuz 2010, 16:58