Turkey: Medical doctor on trial

March 21, 2017


The third hearing in the trial of Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı (the President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey – HRFT) and two journalists on charges of aiding terrorism was held on March 21, 2017 at the 13th Çağlayan Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul. Along with Dr. Fincancı, the journalists Erol Önderoğlu (Reporters without Borders Turkey Representative) and Ahmet Nesin (a journalist/writer) were arrested on June 20, 2016 for defending freedom of the press. They were released ten days later. 

The hearing was observed by representatives of several human rights organizations from throughout the world, including International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the International Federation for Human Rights, and Amnesty International Germany. IFHHRO issued a statement earlier today in support of the three (full text below).  Unfortunately, the court postponed the hearing to June 8, 2017 on the grounds of missing documentation.

The case of Dr. Serdar Küni

Another member of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Dr. Serdar Küni (HRFT Cizre representative) has been imprisoned since October 19, 2017. The first hearing of his case was held last week, on March 13th, at the 2nd Heavy Penal Court in the city of Şırnak in southeast Turkey. Again, at that hearing, representatives of a number of health and human rights organizations were present, including the Turkish Medical Association, the Human Rights Association, the Bar and Lawyers Association, the World Medical Association, the Norwegian Medical Association, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), Amnesty International Germany, and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Dr. Küni is charged with providing medical treatment to alleged members of Kurdish armed groups. IFHHRO member PHR has demanded the immediate dismissal of all legal actions against Dr. Küni and a stop to the ongoing persecution of health workers in Turkey’s southeast. A letter that was also signed by IFHHRO and a number of other organizations, states: “The arrest and detention of Dr. Küni is emblematic of ongoing arrests, detentions, and dismissals of hundreds of doctors, forensic experts, and other health professionals in Turkey since July 2015, when unrest broke out in the southeast. We urge you to cease the arbitrary arrest and detention of health professionals for the legitimate exercise of their freedom of association and expression and for providing medical treatment without discrimination as required by medical ethics.”

And in a press release, the HRFT wrote: “Dr. Küni has been detained and tried with groundless allegations concerning his professional practices and yesterday during the trial it became very obvious that these allegations are not based on any concrete evidences by the statements of witnesses who stated that they were tortured during interrogation, alongside with the indisputableness of universal ethics.”

Statement of solidarity with our respected colleague Şebnem Korur Fincancı

The International Federation of Health and Human Rights Organizations (IFHHRO) calls for the unconditional and immediate acquittal of Şebnem Korur Fincancı, chair of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey and Ahmet Nesin and Erol Önderoğlu, standing trial on 21 March 2017.

Şebnem Korur Fincancı is an internationally respected colleague and forensic specialist, who has been fighting against torture en ill-treatment. Alongside with her colleagues of the Turkish Medical Association, she has always defended the independence of medical practice, and opposed all attempts to suppress medical neutrality and attempts to make medical practice subservient to State interests. She stands in a long tradition of human rights concerned doctors in Turkey, who are determined to defend the independence and integrity of the medical profession in the face of attempts by the State to suppress them.

The trial against Şebnem Korur Fincancı takes place in the context of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, including human rights concerned doctors, fighting against torture.

The world’s most respected document to investigate and document torture and ill-treatment was conceived and written in Turkey in 1999, and is known as the Istanbul Protocol. It is a cynical reality that authors of this authoritative document are now held in custody and have to stand trial.

IFHHRO calls on the Government of Turkey to respect internationally accepted human rights and professional rules of medical ethics.

Press release PHR, 17 March 2017

Previous news item on the case of Dr. Fincancı

Update: On June 8, 2017, it was announced that the hearing of this case had again been postponed till December 26th.