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Press Centre (5/2013)

Press Release on Ill-treatment of Children in Detention

Ankara, 31 May 2013 - It is with great sadness that UNICEF is taking note of allegations of ill-treatment and, in some cases, inhuman and degrading treatment, of children in detention reported by several civil society organisations. On May 27, Gündem:Çocuk and Çakıl Foundations made serious allegations of systematic ill-treatment and discrimination against children in İzmir Şakran and Antalya Prisons based on reports produced by various other organisations and information gathered from past and current child inmates and their families. Again on 27th and 29th of May, members of Parliament, Mr. Ertuğrul Kürkçü and Mr. Rıza Türmen, respectively conducted press meetings regarding these allegations.

UNICEF notes the response of the Ministry of Justice challenging the allegations and arguing that prisons are open to monitoring by relevant national and international institutions. UNICEF also welcomes the assignment of two investigators and the initiation of criminal prosecution regarding the allegations related to the Antalya prison.

Without presuming of the outcomes of the investigations which should result from this process, UNICEF would like to recall that all children in contact with judicial systems should be treated with dignity and respect at all times. All children prosecuted for offences they allegedly committed should be treated in accordance with international juvenile justice standards. The State should also ensure that peer violence between children under its care is also fully prevented and addressed.

For over a decade, through EU supported projects, UNICEF has been accompanying juvenile justice reforms in Turkey. This on-going work has entailed ambitious legal reforms, specialization of professionals, tailoring of procedures and measures for children, and the development of alternatives to imprisonment and individualized approaches to children in detention. In July 2012, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child commended Turkey for its extensive reforms in the area of juvenile justice. 

In addition, the Ministry of Justice recently invested in new infrastructure and equipment designed to enhance security in detention. However, prompt investigation, strict accountability and effective remedy are the only guarantees of a rights-based system. 

After the Pozantı events of 2012, this new series of alleged abuse against children in detention are putting Turkey’s juvenile justice system to a test and reminding us that detention should remain a measure of last resort.

UNICEF warmly encourages the Ministry of Justice to take all the necessary administrative and penal measures to address all these allegations, and calls upon civil society organizations to engage actively with existing independent monitoring and accountability mechanisms, notably by using the internationally acclaimed complaint mechanism created under the newly established Deputy Ombudsperson for Children and Women and Turkish Human Rights Institute.

For more information, please contact:

Séverine Jacomy-Vité, UNICEF Turkey Chief of Child Protection Section, Tel: +90 312 4541000, sjacomyvite@unicef.org

Sema Hosta, UNICEF Turkey Chief of Communications, Tel: +90 312 4541000 shosta@unicef.org

UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org