Press Centre 2010/03/19: General Information

Good News for Children Trowing Stones

UNICEF welcomes the proposed amendment to the Anti-Terrorism Act, also known as the draft law on “children throwing stones,” which would allow all children under age 18 to be tried in juvenile courts. The proposed law is a great development as the country approaches 23rd of April and the law is hoped to put an end to the desperate situation of children involved in demonstrations. If the law passes, it might mean that all children in conflict with the law will be treated in child courts, their best interests will be protected and measures restricting liberty are to be used as the ‘last resort’.

The draft law is to be discussed in the Justice Commission of the Grand National Assembly this week and then debated in the parliament before the end of March. This law is hoped to put an end to the strife of children who have been treated by heavy penal courts under the Anti-Terror Act.

UNICEF’s beliefs are enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child; a convention signed by the overwhelming majority of governments in the world, including the Turkish Government. The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as a person less than 18 years of age. UNICEF respects the right of sovereign governments to arrest children alleged to be breaking the law, but under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 2005 Child Protection Law, it is the right of those under 18 to be tried as children, and their best interests should always be the primary consideration. This does not mean that children cannot be arrested. However, they should be treated in conformity with international standards of juvenile justice.

The international juvenile justice safeguards include: using deprivation of liberty as a last resort; the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment; that a child be allowed legal or other appropriate assistance in the preparation and presentation of his or her defense; that all matters be determined by a competent, independent and impartial authority, and that children are not compelled to give testimony or a confession of guilt. If any child is considered to have infringed the law, this decision and any measures imposed should be reviewed by a higher, competent, independent and impartial authority or judicial body. Again, these guiding principles are all covered in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

UNICEF is concerned that the 2005 Turkish Child Protection Law has been, in part, contravened by the amendments to the articles 9 and 13 of the Anti-Terror Act in 2006, which allow children above 15 to be tried and dealt with in ‘heavy penal courts’.

UNICEF believes that putting children behind bars for many years and depriving them from their basic rights and liberty, not only damages the future of the child but also the future of the society as a whole. How can one expect a child, who happens to have been caught in a conflict with no fault of her or his own, and who has lost her or his chances of education to come out of years of imprisonment and yet become a productive and peace loving member of the society. Children are the future of a country and they need to be taken care of and their best interest should always be protected.

UNICEF continues to provide technical support to Government institutions and interested bodies to prevent and address abuse and exploitation of children, particularly those outside of parental care and in contact with the law.

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