Emine Kart - ANKARA
The Ankara-based International Children’s Center’s (ICC) has held a meeting where it briefed an audience concerning an ongoing project it has been running in order to protect children from all kinds of violence, a priority of the center’s human rights programs.
A part of the Observatory of Child Friendly Justice for Marginalized Victims of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation in Turkey Project, a report which includes statistical information from recent years in regards to children victimized of sexual abuse and exploitation, was presented by Didem Şalgam, the project officer in charge of children’s rights at the ICC, at the meeting held on May 27, while the Juvenile Observatory website (www.cocukgozlemevi.org), which also took part of the project, was introduced.
Şalgam’s work was composed of data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK) and the Justice Ministry’s Directorate General of Criminal Records and Statistics.
According to judicial statistics, while the number of complaints filed at criminal courts within the scope of sexual crimes committed against children was 16,135 in 2010, this number rose to 16,957 in 2015, a 5.09 percent increase.
Out of those complaints, criminal courts launched 10,041 cases in 2010. Five years later, in 2015, criminal courts launched 18,825 cases, an increase of 87.48 percent when compared with 2010.
In parallel with the increase in the number of complaints filed and cases opened, there was an increase in the number of conviction and acquittal rulings from 2010 to 2015.
Accordingly, out of 10,041 cases launched in 2010, 46.32 percent were finalized with conviction rulings while 24 percent were finalized with acquittal rulings.
Out of 18,825 cases opened in 2015, 74.1 percent were finalized with conviction rulings and 25.23 percent were finalized with acquittal rulings.
When the ranges of rulings of convictions and acquittals according to the total number of cases opened in 2010 and 2015 are compared with each other, it is seen that there was an increase in number of conviction decisions.
Physical injury was the top crime which lead to the victimization of children, according to the TÜİK data, while sexual crimes came in second.
“It is possible to observe that the number of children who have come or who have been brought to security units in the Aegean and the Mediterranean regions has been increasing. In addition to the increase in the number of refugees and asylum-seekers, cases of sexual exploitation of children in tourism and travel can also be shown among the reasons for that. There is also a need to take the rise in tourism in the Aegean and the Mediterranean regions into consideration too,” Şalgam explained.
“These figures underline that the number of children victimized by sexual abuse has ominously increased. It also underlines the need for endeavors which would strengthen victimized children and which would support civil society organizations which work for the rights of victimized children,” Şalgam stated.
A single platform for the first time in Turkey
With the launching of the Juvenile Observatory website, judicial rulings, academic essays and statistical data concerning the exploitation and abuse of children have been collected under a single platform for the first time in Turkey.
Rights defenders and policy-makers will now be able to access the database, which is composed of decisions on child neglect and abuse made by the Supreme Court of Appeals, the Constitutional Court, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Ombudsman Institution, as well as academic theses, essays and case presentations in this field.
It will be possible to make comparisons of the court rulings at the observatory with international standards via correlating them with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
From the Matra to Adana
The Observatory of Child Friendly Justice for Marginalized Victims of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation in Turkey Project has been supported through the Matra projects program of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Ankara.
Ombudsman for Children, Disabled and Women Serpil Çakın represented the Ombudsman Institution at the May 27 meeting, while officials from the Justice Ministry’s Department of Victim Rights, representatives from the Child Monitoring Center (ÇİM) in Ankara, as well as executives from the Çankaya Municipality and Yenimahalle Municipality also attended the meeting.
During the meeting, attendees were also informed of the ICC’s collaboration with judicial authorities from the southern province of Adana. In March the ICC conducted a training program on child victims of sexual exploitation and abuse in Adana for judicial officers such as judges, attorney generals, attorneys, social workers and police officers who work with child victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.
In 2014, Adana was third among provinces where child exploitation cases were seen at most.
Parliamentary delegation refused permission to visit Nizip refugee camp
Meanwhile, Turkish authorities have refused an appeal by a parliamentary delegation to visit a refugee camp, which has been scene to a sex abuse scandal following reports that at least eight Syrian children at the refugee came were raped by a camp employee.
A delegation from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) filed an official application to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), which is affiliated with the Prime Ministry, on May 18, requesting an “observation visit” to the refugee camp in the district of Nizip in the southern province of Gaziantep, close to the Syrian border.
“Everybody knows that over 30 children have been sexually abused at the AFAD refugee camp, which executives from the AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party] and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu likened to a five-star hotel. This is only the visible side. The unconfirmed information we have heard suggests that more calamitous cases have taken place at the camp. While our mission is taking care of these as the deputies of the people, they don’t even let us in,” the delegation said, in a written statement released last week.
“What is going on at these camps is coming to the agenda every day as either harassment and rape or fields where ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] gangs have been trained. More importantly, only 10 percent of refugees are staying in the camps. The rest are living in cities. We don’t know at all about what is happening to them and what they are doing. Our not being let in is an indication that more serious situations are being experienced,” they said, vowing “to follow up” on the matter.