Juvenile prison abuse just ‘tip of the iceberg’

Juvenile prison abuse just ‘tip of the iceberg’

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Juvenile prison abuse just ‘tip of the iceberg’

Seven boys from Pozantı Prison, aged between 13 and 17 and all jailed for taking part in pro-PKK demonstrations, first spoke of the alleged abuses in July 2011. DHA photo

Parliament’s Human Rights Commission had twice notified the Justice Ministry about complaints of mistreatment and sexual abuse in a juvenile prison in Adana but no serious action was taken until some of the victims were recently released and held a press conference, according to a CHP report.

Three Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies visited the prison this week and penned a report suggesting the allegations concerning Pozantı Prison were “only the tip of the iceberg.” They called for immediate dismissal of the then-warden and his deputy.

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin cautioned the CHP team not to go to the prison on grounds the inmates were linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and their allegations were a fabrication, one of the deputies, Veli Ağbaba, told the Hürriyet Daily News. “The allegations are horrible.

It’s obvious the Justice Ministry was seven months late. When we visited the prison the [Justice Ministry] inspectors were just arriving for an investigation. An independent body is
needed to probe the incident,” Ağbaba said.

Seven boys, aged between 13 and 17 and jailed for taking part in pro-PKK demonstrations, first spoke of the alleged abuses in handwritten notes they sent to the Mersin branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD) in June 2011. They claimed to have been beaten with pipes and hanged from basketball hoops by prison officials and to have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of older boys. It emerged later that some of them had recounted the sexual abuse as something that had happened to fellow inmates.

No action for seven months

The IHD reported the letters to Parliament’s Human Rights Commission, which in turn passed them to the Justice Ministry. When the ministry failed to respond, the commission sent a second notification. However, it is now being alleged the ministry failed to take action for seven months.

Ergin announced Feb. 29 he had dispatched three inspectors to look into the allegations.

The CHP report said 25 of the 218 children in the prison had complained of violence, abuse
and rape, while questioning a strict military-like disciplinary system in the wards. The report placed the blame on the warden and his deputy and urged for their immediate dismissal.

“They were promoted [to other prisons], almost as a prize. They must be investigated,” it said. A local prosecutor confirmed two inmates were on trial for rape but described the incident as “isolated,” the report said, adding the current administrators of the prison had denied the claims.