In 2015 and 2016, as violence between Kurdish fighters and Turkish security forces roiled southeast Turkey, curfews and roadblock prevented the sick and wounded from accessing health care. As PHR documented, Turkish security forces deliberately and unlawfully imposed a virtual state of emergency across the country’s southeast.
In November 2016, Dr. Serdar Küni, a Cizre representative for the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, a PHR partner, was arrested, arbitrarily detained, and put on trial for treating alleged members of the anti-government Kurdish armed groups during this unrest in the southeast. PHR sent staff observers twice to observe the trial hearings. During the trial, Dr. Küni’s lawyer submitted PHR’s 2016 report, “Southeastern Turkey: Health Care Under Siege,” which documented Turkish authorities’ extensive violations of medical neutrality and underscored the imperative to respect health professionals’ ethical duties to treat the sick and wounded, regardless of their affiliation.
A local court sentenced Dr. Küni to a four-year prison term, but the Gaziantep Regional High Court reversed the decision, released Dr. Küni, and ordered a re-trial of the case at a local court. Dr. Küni’s case is still underway, with the retrial hearings proceeding at the Simak Heavy Penal Court, and he is not permitted to leave the country.
Throughout Dr. Küni’s detention and proceedings, PHR has called international attention to his case, advocated on his behalf, and pressured Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for Dr. Küni’s immediate release and the dropping of all charges against him.