Since 2006, thousands of children in Turkey, some as young as 12, have been prosecuted under anti-terrorism legislation for their alleged participation in demonstrations. The demonstrations were focused on issues of concern to members of the Kurdish community and often involved violent clashes with the police.
Following their arrest, many children have been detained in adult detention facilities without record of the detention being made, and without the children having access to lawyers or their family. In many cases, once charged, the children have been remanded in custody, with pre-trial detention periods ranging from several months to over a year. During the detention period, these children often did not have access to education, health facilities and leisure activities. Many children have reported ill-treatment and torture during their arrest and their subsequent detention.
Earlier this year, the Turkish government amended the law to prevent the prosecution of child demonstrators under anti-terrorism legislation solely for their alleged participation in demonstrations. Under these amendments, all children previously convicted under the Anti-Terror Law will have their convictions quashed and all children prosecuted under other laws will be tried in Children’s Courts rather than adult Special Heavy Penal Courts.
While this is a positive step, in some cases children have not been released due to courts being slow to transfer the cases to Children’s Courts. There is also a lack of Children's Courts in some provinces, so it is likely that a number of these children are likely to be tried in adult courts
The prosecution of children under the same procedures as adults constitute a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Child Protection Law in Turkey. The Turkish authorities must ensure that the existing juvenile justice system is implemented in accordance with international human rights standards and Turkey’s domestic legislation.
The Turkish authorities have also failed in their obligation to effectively investigate the widespread, consistent and credible allegations that children were ill-treated during their arrest and detention in the context of the prosecutions.