Sweden welcomes Turkey’s move to increase sentences for children’s sexual abuse

Sweden welcomes Turkey’s move to increase sentences for children’s sexual abuse

Sweden welcomes Turkey’s move to increase sentences for children’s sexual abuse

AFP photo

Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Margot Wallström told the Hürriyet Daily News in a written interview on Aug. 22 that she welcomed Turkey’s move to prepare a new law on sentences in cases of sexual abuse against children, following the diplomatic spat between Sweden and Turkey ignited by the top Turkish court’s decision to annul a legal article on the issue. 

The Turkish Justice Ministry is preparing a new code in order to increase rather than decrease sentences for crimes of sexual abuse of children.

Your message on Twitter on August 14 that went “[The] Turkish decision to allow sex with children under 15 [years of age] must be reversed. Children need more protection, not less, against violence, sex abuse” has caused a row between the Swedish and Turkish governments. Do you think there was a misunderstanding on your side, based on incomplete information about the Turkish Constitutional Court’s ruling of May 26, 2016?

I understand that my message on Twitter about the Constitutional Court’s ruling of May 26 has been interpreted in various ways. My intention has always been to draw attention to and voice concern about the protection of children. Turkish authorities have since my tweet clarified their commitment to adopt a new law, affording all children the same protection against sexual abuse that they enjoy today. I welcome this. 

Was your message in reaction to the electronic message board in Vienna airport of Kronen Zeitung which said that Turkey permitted the sexual abuse of children below 15? Or have you had information about the court ruling that it actually asked for a revision of the law for charging heavier punishment as the age decreases from 15 and gave six months for the correction of it and did not cancel the article until the correction?

I was unaware of the message board in Vienna at the time of my tweet. 

Were you informed that there was already a public and press reaction to the ruling asking for better protection of minors and the Justice Ministry had started to work on an amendment before you broadcasted for your tweet message?

I was informed that several and different voices in Turkey had been critical of the Constitutional Court’s decision, and that they saw a risk of the protection of children’s human rights becoming weaker.

In Turkey, Sweden is renowned as a country which is sensitive for the protection of human rights and democratic freedoms in Turkey and also supportive of Turkey’s integration, or at least getting closer with the European Union. Why has Sweden not given strong support for the defeat of the July 15 military coup in Turkey, besides urging for the rights of those arrested in the wake of the coup attempt?

Let me begin by saying again that Sweden unreservedly condemns the attempt to overthrow the democratically-elected government in Turkey. Both the Swedish Prime Minister (Stefan Löfven) and I have condemned the coup attempt and support the Turkish government. I should also add that we witnessed many courageous and non-violent acts by the Turkish people as they resisted the coup attempt, taking to the streets and showing bravery in the face of danger. Many lives were tragically lost that night and we are aware of the trauma and the dark period for Turkey that would have ensued, had the coup been successful. 

Our long-standing support for Turkey does not change the fact however that we are concerned regarding the certain developments in the wake of the coup. It is imperative that all actions taken fully respect human rights for all and the rule of law.  

As far as Sweden’s support for Turkey’s bid to join the EU, this remains intact and is perhaps more important than ever. I believe that moving closer to the EU will not only benefit Turkey, but the EU and Sweden as well. It is in our mutual interest to continue the dialogue and the cooperation, and I look forward to visiting Turkey as soon as possible. Sweden always aims to be a constructive friend and partner to Turkey, and as a friend we also need to speak our mind when we have concerns over rule of law and fundamental rights.

The Turkish government accuses Fethullah Gülen, the Islamist preacher living in the U.S., and his followers of being behind the military coup attempt. Does Sweden consider the followers of Gülen who fled to Sweden after July 15 as political offenders and provide political asylum for them? How many such people got asylum from Sweden after the July 15 military coup attempt?

All decisions concerning individual migration and asylum cases are handled by the Swedish Migration Agency. The Swedish constitution forbids me from interfering with their decisions.

I don’t have any information if people with connections to the Gülen movement have traveled to Sweden or not, before or after the attempted coup.