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Turkey: “Too many children are detained”

Strasbourg, 07.07.2010 – “There is a need of radical reform of the juvenile justice system in Turkey”, said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, publishing today two letters sent to the Turkish Government on human rights issues.

Following the Commissioner’s visit to Turkey from 23 to 26 May 2010, the letters were sent to the Ministers of Justice and of Interior, 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.

In his letter to the Minister of Justice, the Commissioner expresses 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.”

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.”

In addition, the Commissioner remains particularly worried by the long-term pre-trial detention of a number of elected local representatives mainly in southeast Turkey, including two members of the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.

In the letter to the Minister of Interior, Commissioner Hammarberg welcomes the progress achieved with regard to the human rights of internally displaced persons. He underlines the importance to fully and effectively respect their right to return, resettle or integrate locally, and to accelerate implementation of existing action plans. He highlights the need to step up demining 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 recognizes 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.”

Stressing that resettlement of refugees is a major humanitarian issue, the Commissioner notes 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, said the Commissioner.

Reply by the Minister of Justice

Reply by the Minister of Interior

Press contact in the Commissioner’s Office:

Stefano Montanari, +33 (0)6 61 14 70 37; stefano.montanari@coe.int

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