Turkey needs reform of juvenile laws under
which hundreds of Kurdish children have been jailed:
STRASBOURG, — A top European human rights
envoy urged Turkey on Thursday to radically reform
its juvenile justice system, under which hundreds of
Kurdish children have been jailed in violation of
international human rights laws.
"Too many children are detained in Turkey. This
situation is at variance with international and
European standards," Thomas Hammarberg, Council of
Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a
letter sent to Turkey's Justice Ministry.
"Detention of children should be an exceptional
measure and a means of last resort," added the
letter, which was emailed to Reuters by the Council.
Hundreds of Kurdish children -- some as young as 11,
according to activists -- have been prosecuted by
Turkish authorities fighting Kurdish rebels in the
Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner
for Human Rights
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 Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)
"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," the letter said.
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
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.
"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," the letter added.
Hammarberg, the envoy of the 47-member Council of
Europe, visited Turkey in May and met with 18 minors
aged 15-18, including two girls, who were being held
in detention in a prison in the city of Diyarbakir
for six-to-nine months.
In a separate letter to the Interior Ministry,
Hammarberg said he was also concerned about the
long-term pre-trial detention of elected local
representatives in the southeast.
Kurdish activists say hundreds of Kurdish
politicians, including mayors, have been detained by
Turkish security forces for suspected links to the
Since 1984 the PKK [Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan] took up arms for self-rule in the
mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey
[Turkey-Kurdistan] which has claimed around 45,000
lives of Turkish soldiers and Kurdish PKK
The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds'
identity in its constitution and of their language
as a native language along with Turkish in the
country's Kurdish areas, the party also demanded an
end to ethnic discrimination in Turkish laws and
constitution against Kurds, ranting them full
A large Turkey's Kurdish community estimate to 25
million openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK
Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population
as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural
rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish
language and private Kurdish language courses with
the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish
politicians say the measures fall short of their
The PKK is considered a 'terrorist' organization by
Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the
blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which
overturned a decision
to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its
political wing on the European Union's terror list.
PDF: Letter from the Council
of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
to Mr Sadullah Ergin, Minister of Justice of the
Republic of Turkey (8 June 2010)
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