The two-day seminar on the juvenile justice system and protection mechanisms for minors began on Tuesday in Ankara with the participation of many experts, officials and representatives of civil society organizations. The meeting, which is expected to bring many suggestions regarding the juvenile justice system in Turkey, is organized by the Prime Ministry Secretariat-General for EU Affairs (ABGS) and the EU.
The chairperson of the seminar, Rıza Türmen, a former judge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), underlined that the juvenile justice system’s aim should be rehabilitation.
He added that although Turkey had made progress on its juvenile justice system, there are still many reforms that must be done, especially structural reforms.
Türmen underlined that the number of convictions against minors due to the formation of gangs is increasing. He added that EU progress reports have said the sentences handed down to minors are very severe and there are claims of ill treatment. Türmen also noted that the number of juvenile correctional facilities and experts in this field are both limited. “There is no complaint mechanism that can be applied to minors. To overcome these shortcomings, structural reform is needed,” he said.
In the opening speeches of the seminar, Halut Ilıcak, deputy secretary-general of ABGS, recalled that there are several projects under way to improve the juvenile justice system and strengthen its focus on rehabilitation.
He also mentioned a bill submitted to Parliament that aims to improve the situation of minors who are facing trial as adults due to the Counterterrorism Law and the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
Tibor Varadi, the deputy head of the delegation of the European Commission to Turkey, also underlined that the EU agrees that this bill is important. He added that problems regarding the rights of children are not unique to Turkey and that Turkey is working to comply with the norms and regulations of the EU.
Yusuf Solmaz Balo from the Ministry of Justice underlined that the number of minors in Turkey is greater than the entire population of some European countries. He added that statistically convictions by juvenile courts are decreasing but that the sentences are becoming more severe.
Balo also stated that the constitutional reform package currently under discussion in Parliament contains provisions regarding the rights of minors and envisages affirmative action. According to Balo, if the reform package is accepted, it will be possible to establish an ombudsman system for minors.