Immediate calls against human right abuses in TurkeyComments Off on Immediate calls against human right abuses in Turkey

Immediate calls against human right abuses in Turkey


Brussels, 15 July 2013


What started as a smaller protest in Gezi Park, Istanbul, after trees were torn up under a government redevelopment plan, escalated into a wide scale demonstration against the Prime Minister and his government’s policies and resulted in a violent, repressive reaction from the side of the government. Physicians have a right in such circumstances to treat wounded persons as their neutrality is guaranteed by international norms and standards and may not be undermined by any third party.

In support to the Turkish Medical Association and upholding international standards of medical practice, medical ethics and physician autonomy, the Standing Committee of European Doctors addressed a letter dated 4 July to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressing concern towards the government’s actions that discouraged and sanctioned physicians delivering medical services. It asked the government to remove its repressive measures against the delivery of medical services as well as condemning the use of excessive force against protesters.

Unfortunately, as witnessed across the globe, Turkey became the scene of growing violence with many injured and wounded by the government.

Collective evidence was gathered by the Turkish Medical Association, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey and Physicians for Human Rights that detail and prove the extent of the human rights abuses both against civilians and doctors.

The report states:

  • Police have systematically used tear gas as a weapon on hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, firing tear gas canisters and capsules directly at protestors at close range and in closed spaces, or with no outlet for escape.  Some 130,000 canisters reportedly have been used against protestors.
  • The police have fired rubber bullets and live ammunition directly at protestors at close range, used water cannons spiked with tear gas, and beaten and illegally detained hundreds of protestors.
  • As of July 2, 2013, the Turkish Medical Association (TMA) collected medical information on more than 8,000 injuries due to tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, beatings and live ammunition. Fifty-nine protestors have been seriously wounded and 11 others have lost their eyes. There have been six deaths related to tear gas canister injuries to the head at close range and/or gunshot wounds.
  • The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey has conducted approximately 200 medical evaluations of injured protestors in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol standards. The physical and psychological evidence in each case is consistent with torture and/or ill treatment. Independent autopsy findings indicate that deaths by gunshot wounds and/or tear gas canisters were caused by direct shots at close range.
  • In addition, the police and other law enforcement officials have deliberately attacked clearly identifiable, independent medical personal and medical facilities with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. Police have beaten and illegally detained dozens of physicians and other medical personnel for providing emergency medical care to those injured by police.
  • In the absence of adequate emergency services by the Ministry of Health, thousands of independent physicians and other medical personnel have provided emergency care as individuals and through the organization of the Turkish Medical Association.
  • The Ministry of Health has required medical personnel to report the names of injured demonstrators and medical personnel providing care to the injured.
  • One week ago, the Ministry of Health submitted a health bill to Parliament, which would criminalize the provision of emergency medical care, not only to demonstrators, but anyone in need of emergency medical assistance in Turkey.
  • In addition, on July 8th, 2013, Dr. Ali Çerkezoğlu the Secretary General of Istanbul Chamber of Medicine (*) was detained with 35 other Taksim Solidarity Platform members while on their way to Gezi Park. His home was searched without a warrant and he continues to be detained after more than 40 hours.

The CPME supported the Turkish Medical Association in their struggle for professional independence and medical neutrality at their General Assembly in Ankara on 29 June 2013. Secretary General, Birgit Beger, addressed the audience and stressed the need for medical neutrality and the safeguard of professional secrecy. “The ethical obligation for doctors to provide health care services to anyone in need of such services is strongly rooted in medical ethics/deontology. This obligation exists irrespective of a person’s administrative status.” CPME Position paper, 2008/109

A second, joint letter, dated 12 July was sent together with Physicians for Human Rights, the World Medical Association and the German Medical Association, this time addressing not only the Prime Minister but also the Minister of Justice.  The newly gathered medical evidence of government violence and abuse was presented in the letter, which launched a call for immediate cessation of aggression, use of tear gas, release of detainees and enforcement of articles 97 and 98 of the Turkish Penal Code criminalising repressive actions against physicians. The letter also called on the international community to ban the sale of tear gas to Turkey and ensure that policy decisions regarding Turkey support basic human rights protections and respect for medical neutrality.