"Imprisoned children are just one single aspect of the problem" said Mersin Deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü in his report about rights violations at the Pozantı Closed Prison for Children and Juveniles in Adana.
"What we are facing are the basic problems of Turkey - poverty, the Kurdish question and antidemocratic state sovereignty - they are reflected by children and redound upon society", Kürkçü explained in his report. He underlined that a lasting solution for these problems could only be achieved by taking serious social, economic and political steps.
The report furthermore highlighted the relation between the situation of the children who got into conflict with the law and the security axis of the government's policies on the Kurdish question.
Kürkçü criticized that public officials applied their endued power with increasing arbitrariness particularly against defenceless children. According to the MP's report, the police, gendarmerie, courts, guards and civilian volunteers generated a parallel security network in which they were all successively connected to each other.
"They act within the deep faith that this network protects them from the law and sanctions and that they are being protected from the legislation. They support and encourage each other for more violations", Kürkçü said.
Children need rehabilitation after traumatization
The report indicated that measures should be taken to cure the harm and traumata experienced in Pozantı and to protect the children. Therefore, the most urgent steps ought to be the release of the children and sending them home.
Moreover, the report pointed to the importance of transferring the children prisoners with finalized or un-finalized convictions to institutions that were able to provide education and rehabilitation. These children should complete their sentences within a close relation to their families.
The children should be able to go back to a school of their own choice and families should be provided with education support from public sources. Independent institutions should provide for rehabilitation in order to cope with the experienced traumata.
Accepting the basis of the children's statements, public officials and convicts who treated the children with cruelty, raped them or turned a blind eye to the situation should become subject to an investigation. This probe ought to be completed as soon as possible and those responsible had to be punished, the report claimed.
In addition, it was stated that also the prison inspection board was among the responsible parties.
Children must not remain in closed prison
Several measures to be taken were emphasized in the report; for instance:
* The Siteler Police Station in the Akdeniz district of Mersin has been used like an operational centre of the riot forces. It became a constant source of concern for children and a place of hate. This police station should be closed down and moved to a different place. It should be transformed into a public location for children services.
* The Mersin Governorship and the Police Directorate should admonish the police forces who act on their order and also the administrative units to stop the cruel treatment of people and children. The Ministries of Justice and of the Interior have to take immediate action in order to determine and stop the sources of state violence that is common in Mersin.
* Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child directly bans violence against children; Article 37 prohibits torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of children. Article 39 calls for rehabilitation of children who were subjected to any kind of violence. The Ministry of Justice has to bring their implementations in line with the provisions of this convention; Turkey has to stop creating a basis for the oppression of the language and culture of Kurdish children.
* Children should no longer be imprisoned in closed prisons that are not suitable for them.
* Closed institutions should be opened to independent control mechanisms that involve representatives of children rights organizations.
* Social services aimed at the protection of human rights and dignity and at the allocation of social justice should be commenced in closed institutions.
Children of Kurdish families that were forced to leave their villages
According to data given by officials of the Pozantı Closed Prison for Children, 80 percent of the imprisoned children and the entire group of children who revealed the violence experienced in the institution were Kurdish, the report noted.
The majority of their families were forced to leave their villages in south-eastern Turkey between 1991 and 1999 and settle in Mersin. It was stressed in the report that in general these families were poor or extremely poor.
The report also drew attention to the fact that the children leave school after eight years the most. Even though they are poverty-stricken, financial problems are not among the reasons for dropping out of school as reported by the children. Reasons to leave school include "exclusion of language, identity and ethnic roots by teachers and the school administration; not being able to tolerate the personal humiliation and offences". (YY/VK)