Victim/offender mediation in Turkey
Apr 23, 2012
After a delegation of members of the Turkish Parliament visited Marquette Law School last month, I had the privilege of traveling to Istanbul to moderate a victim/offender mediation conference for two hundred fifty Turkish prosecutors and judges. There were fourteen of us restorative justice “experts” from ten different countries who were there for three days to talk to the ballroom full of lawyers, who wanted to learn how to best implement Turkey’s already enacted victim/offender mediation process during criminal prosecutions. It was a fabulous experience.
....The panelists believed that the Turkish law as it is currently written has some implementation problems. First it requires that all the mediators either be a prosecutor or a lawyer. Many of the panelists talked about why it is important to have “non-lawyers” involved as well. Almost everyone advised that prosecutors should not serve as mediators because they are not neutral to the dispute or the parties.
The law requires that the police offer the opportunity of a victim/offender mediation to the parties shortly after the crime is reported. At this point, Turkish police have no training in victim/offender dialogue and would be unable to answer questions about the process.
The parties only have three days to decide whether to mediate and if they do not agree, it is deemed to be a “no.” That is simply not enough time for a victim or offender to decide whether to have a facilitated conversation with each other. As a result of this, there have been very few referrals.
Another problem is that the law requires that the mediation must occur within 30 days. Most of the panelists agreed that using a 90 to 120 day window is much more realistic.
If there is no mediation early on in the criminal process, the law dictates that the parties are not to be offered a second chance to mediate. We, again, saw that as a problem because some people need more time to come to that decision.
Some prosecutors identified a significant challenge for their use of restorative justice because very few people in Turkey, including key stakeholders, understand (not to mention even know about) victim/offender mediation. So we all agreed that there will have to be much education, building of community support, training of mediators, and experimentation before these processes are truly integrated into the Turkish criminal process.
Despite those challenges, we all applauded Turkey for taking these first steps to become better informed to do this work.