Juvenile offenders and children accompanying mothers in southern Turkish prisons among the most vulnerable quake survivors

Incarcerated juveniles and young children accompanying their mothers in prison in southern Turkey are among the groups most affected by devastating earthquakes on February 6 and should be released immediately, a Turkish lawyer has said.

Speaking to the Gazete Duvar news website, lawyer Cansu Şekerci from the Civil Society in the Penal System (CISST) said transferring juvenile offenders to other prisons can be seen as a precautionary measure to keep them away from the physical devastation of the earthquakes, but it would also take them away from their families in the region.

“According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the jailing of children should be the last resort to punish them, and it should be for a short period of time. Especially in times of disaster, jailed minors should be released and, if possible, be with their families or relatives instead of being transferred to another prison,” Şekerci said.

Minors in prison are not necessarily always inmates since there are also many children younger than 6 years of age who are accompanying their incarcerated mothers. CISST strongly recommends the use of alternative methods for women with young children to serve their sentences, Şekerci stated.

Şekerci also called on lawyers, bar associations and members of the judiciary to take the necessary steps for the release of juvenile prisoners.

According to the latest data from the Turkish General Directorate of Prisons (CTE), there are 1,170 minors in pretrial detention and 426 juveniles aged 12 to 18 serving sentences in Turkish prisons.

Also, 520 children under the age of 6 are accompanying their mothers in Turkish prisons, according to a January report released by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu.

Turkey’s most powerful earthquake in almost 100 years, which struck near the city of Gaziantep in the early hours of February 6, has so far claimed the lives of more than 42,000 people in Turkey in addition to injuring in excess of 100,000. Close to 220,000 disaster victims have been evacuated from the region to date, according to the latest official figures.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.

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