As mentioned, since 2006 a change in the anti–terrorism law made it possible that children starting from fifteen years old can be trialed and sentenced as adults. Since that year, more than 1500 have been locked up. Most of them are charged with being a member of PKK merely for participating in street protests, which are often very violently reacted to by Turkish police. Children that sang a Kurdish hymn on a conference in the U.S. were being arrested at their return to Turkey. Human rights activists that defend their rights are harassed and arrested by the police. The living conditions in the prisons are in contradiction with Turkish and international standards for detention for minors.
In Diyarbakir, Turkey, the ‘Justice for Children Initiative’ formed by the childrens families, lawyers, local doctors, human rights activists and magistrates, launched an urgent appeal to the international community. Their most important concern is the abolishment of the application of several articles of the ‘Law on Struggle Against Terrorism’ for minors.
At this moment, where both the Turkish and Kurdish forces are showing a sincere and intense effort to resolve their conflict peacefully and Turkey is showing more than ever the intention to meet the EU’s human rights standards, I would like to call to this assembly once more to give notice to the appeal.
It should be clear that the most effective way to pressure the Turkish government runs through the political structures of the European Union. The Union not only priorities children’s rights in its internal policies, but also stated that children’s rights are an important factor in external actions. In the committees communication paper ‘A special place for children in EU external action’ children belonging to ethnic or other minorities and displaced children are called to be especially at risk.
Furthermore, the document even says that ‘The enlargement process is another powerful tool providing opportunities to promote children’s rights. One of the criteria for membership of the EU is that the candidate country has achieved stability of those institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and the protection of minorities. In the framework of these criteria developed by the European Council in Copenhagen in 1993, the Commission promotes the reform of child protection and closely monitors progress on children’s rights throughout the accession process.
I sincerely hope that with the political power held by your parties on European level, we can put the committees words into practice and fasten the liberation of more than 1000 Kurdish children. If we reach out to Flemish children’s rights organizations and the media the pressure will be even bigger. The Flemish Commissioner for Children’s Rights should also be contacted since he is in direct contact with his European colleagues through The European Network for Ombudspersons for Children. I will be happy to learn your ideas about finding a resolution and bringing to the attention of Turkey’s children’s rights violations in relation to the pending annexation process.