Turkey ends prosecution of child demonstrators under anti-terror laws

Amnesty International has welcomed a move by the Turkey’s Parliament to end the prosecution of children under anti-terrorism laws solely for taking part in demonstrations.Amendments to the law, passed by Parliament on Thursday, mean that all children previously convicted under anti-terrorism legislation will have their convictions quashed.The new law will also end the prosecution of children aged 15 and over in adult Special Heavy Penal Courts (courts competent to try cases involving organized crime, terrorism and state security).”Turkey’s Parliament has taken an important step to end the unfair trials of children and to protect their human rights,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey.”The authorities must now take steps to amend overly broad and vague anti-terrorism laws that have resulted in countless unfair trials and prosecutions of those expressing peaceful dissenting opinions.”The new law will not prevent the prosecution of adult demonstrators under anti-terrorism laws allowing unfair trials of people aged 18 and over to continue.Amnesty International pledged to monitor the implementation of the amendments and urged the authorities to ensure that children are only tried in designated Children’s Courts.Thousands of children in Turkey, some as young as 12, have been prosecuted under anti-terrorism legislation, solely for their alleged participation in demonstrations considered by the government to be in support of terrorism.The demonstrations focus on issues of concern to members of the Kurdish community, and often involve clashes with the police.Amnesty International reminded the Turkish authorities of their obligations to uphold the right to peaceful protest.They were urged to ensure that in the policing of demonstrations only such force is used as is consistent with international human rights standards.The organization said that children should only be detained as a last resort and in facilities designed for minors.It also called on the Turkish authorities to ensure that the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment is upheld.”The government should now state clearly and openly that the ill-treatment of demonstrators will not be tolerated and commit to thorough and impartial investigations into widespread allegations of ill-treatment by state officials at demonstrations and places of detention.”In a report published last month, Turkey: All children have rights: End unfair prosecutions of children under anti-terrorism legislation, Amnesty International documented the systematic violations of the rights of the children committed during their arrest, detention and trial.The report featured first-hand accounts of being ill-treated on arrest and while being held in police custody. Despite widespread accounts of excessive use of force and other ill-treatment, no police officer has been brought to justice.