"By arresting those children, hastily relegating them to adult status and trying them with terror charges, what are we hoping to achieve? Do we hope that they will be rehabilitated or that they should be further traumatized and easily fell for a politicization of hatred, which would surpass the current level of violence?"
Psychologist Murat Paker begin his speech with this question during a press conference today at Bilgi University, demanding the release of hundreds of children accused of "being a member to a terrorist organization" upon participating protests in Diyarbakır and other cities in southeastern Turkey.
A petition signed by 265 intellectuals initiated the meeting. They urge that courts and the government should respect the universal principles of juvenile justice system.
50 people, among them Hakan Tahmaz, Zeynep Tanbay, Ferhat Kentel, Pınar Selek, Mebuse Tekay, Melek Ulagay Taylan, Emine Uşaklıgil and Bilgesu Erenus attended the press conference.
Reading the press release, "We want justice for children with children" said actress Bennu Yıldırımlar.
Speaking on behalf of the families of the concerned children, Arif Akkaya suggested, "rights and laws are put on hold regarding Kurdish children". He emphasized that those children bear the burden of the ongoing war between the state and Kurdish rebel group PKK. Making reference to PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan's infamous protest at Davos, "Those who shed tears for the children of Gaza blind their eyes to the suffering of Kurdish children," he said.
Lawyer Meral Danış Beştaş from Diyarbakır Bar Association explained how national legislation and international treaties signed by Turkey –such as the UN Convention of the Rights of the child- are violated in practice.
She drew attention to the Counter Terrorism Law and a Supreme Court of Appeals ruling, which enabled courts to treat all participants of a protest as "members to a terrorist organization", in case "the terrorist organization calls for that protest."
"Rebels, who spend 10 years in PKK get away with 6 years in prison while these children are tried with up to 20 years for just participating in an event. This is unacceptable."
"Those children are denied their childhood" said Paker. "It's assumed that they posses the mental and emotional capacity of adults, which simply isn't true. If this isn't enough, they face terror charges for throwing stones to the police. All in all, we witness an acute eclipse of reason and conscience regarding the system in Turkey."
"These children and families live in poverty and despair," added social worker Ermrah Kırımsoy, citing quotes from face-to-face interviews with several of them.
She emphasized the importance of social treatise reports required to determine criminal capacity of the accused and stated that the courts fail to employ those as described by law. (EÜ/AGÜ)
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