Members of an iniative called Justice for Children have demanded a change in the Anti-Terrorism Law which currently allows children to be tried for acts of terrorism.
"It will not be a solution just to change Articles 9 and 13 of the Anti-Terrorism law. The scope of the law must exclude children under the age of 18."
More than 100 people have come together in an initiative called "Justice for Children". They met at the Istanbul Chamber of Physicians on Tuesday, 14 April.
Hundreds of children on trial
Lawyer Aysenur Demirkale, member of the Children’s Rights Centre of the Istanbul Bar Association, continued: "The Law on the Protection of the Child and Children’s Rights agreements clearly need to be imposed on the Anti-Terrorism Law as far as implementations are concerned."
Since the law was amended in 2006, hundreds of children have been tried for acts of terrorism when allegedly taking part in different protests. In Adana, southern Turkey, especially, children are receiving prison sentences of up to 20 years by courts.
Singer Tilbe Saran and forensic medical expert Ümit Biçer also spoke at the meeting.
MPs ignoring problem
Sevahir Bayindir, MP for the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) in Sirnak, southeastern Turkey, said that putting children on trial was part of the state’s policy of threatening, intimidating and punishing families.
She said that she had filed a motion in parliament on 12 February, asking about changes to the Anti-Terrorism Law, but that nobody had supported it.
Speaking to bianet, the MP said that families of the imprisoned children had come to parliament prior to the local elections of 29 March and had asked for a solution.
"The MPs listening to the families had promised to solve the problem after the elections. But after the elections, they have neither kept their promise nor given any explanations."
Media and public turning a blind eye
Bayindir criticised the media for ignoring what the children, convicted of "membership in an illegal organisation" (the PKK), experienced.
"The media and the public are acting like the three monkeys. The reason for this silence is that the imprisoned children are Kurdish."
Children not examined thoroughly
Biçer, who has attended trials as an expert, said that the evaluations of children were not done properly.
"They ask them short, clichéd questions, such as ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’, and then they write that they are healthy and in their right mind. There is no evaluation as to what kind of preventative measures in the areas of education, health, etc., could have been /be taken."
Violation of international agreement
Demirkale reminded the audience that Turkey was a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and that prison sentences of up to 50 years given to 13- to 17-year-olds were a clear violation of this convention.
"Not only a Kurdish issue"
Saran added that some people reduced the problem to being an issue of Kurds only, but, she said, "This issue concerns all the children living in this country."
"The fact that today Kurdish children are affected does not mean that the children of other people who have been alienated and othered will not be affected in the future." (BÇ/AG)
BIA News Center – Istanbul
16 April 2009, Thursday