The Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers is deeply concerned at reports (The Guardian, 1st Feb 2010) that a 15-year-old girl, a Turkish Kurd, named Berivan, has been jailed in Turkey for nearly eight years after being convicted of "terrorist" offences. She was arrested at a demonstration in the south-eastern city of Batman in October 2009. The 13-and-a-half-year sentence originally imposed on her was later reduced on appeal to seven years and nine months because of her age. She was found guilty of "crimes on behalf of an illegal organisation" after prosecutors alleged she had hurled stones and shouted slogans. She was also convicted of attending "meetings and demonstrations in opposition to the law" and "spreading propaganda for an illegal organisation". There are substantial concerns as to the fairness of her trial and conviction.
The Society understands that under counter-terrorism legislation introduced in 2006, Turkey has been trying juveniles as adults, and jailing them for up to 50 years. Recent official figures have revealed that there are currently 2,622 minors in Turkish prisons. According to the Diyarbakir Human Rights Association, some 737 minors have been charged under the counter-terrorism legislation since its introduction. Out of 267 tried in Diyarbakir last year, 78 were given extended jail terms.
According to the European Court of Human Rights, between 1959 and 2009 Turkey was the worst violator of the European Convention on Human Rights, with almost 19% of all violations, and 2,295 judgements issued against it. Turkey also had the highest proportion of violations in 2009, with 347 out of 1,625 negative rulings. The right most commonly violated was the right to a fair trial. Turkey was also condemned in 30 cases of inhumane or degrading treatment.
Turkey ratified the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on 4 April 1995. Berivan is a “child”, whose rights are protected by this Convention. Article 37 (c) of the CRC provides that
“(b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;”
The Society considers that an 8 year sentence on conviction for the crimes reported is grossly disproportionate, and appears to be a violation of Turkey’s treaty obligations under the CRC.