For Immediate Release
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today criticized an Ankara judge’s decision to proceed with a lawsuit against the Turkish Medical Association (TMA), which did its job by mobilizing medical personnel to provide emergency care to demonstrators injured during the Gezi Park protests.
“Doctors are being put on trial for following their ethical duties by treating those injured during last year’s protests,” said Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director. “Allowing this reckless lawsuit to proceed is the latest example of the Turkish government’s ongoing crackdown on the medical profession. Punishing doctors for treating wounded protesters is clearly an intimidation tactic, and could have devastating public health consequences.”
Following this morning’s pre-trial hearing at the 23rd Basic Civil Court in Ankara, the judge agreed to hear the case on December 23. Dr. Holly Atkinson, PHR volunteer medical advisor and past PHR president, attended the hearing on behalf of the organization.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) filed the lawsuit in January 2014, claiming the TMA illegally “established healthcare units called infirmaries” in response to protests at Gezi Park in May 2013. In a friend-of-the-court brief, PHR argued that members of the TMA not only followed international medical ethics by providing emergency care, but also acted in accordance with the Turkish Penal Code, which makes it a crime for medical personnel to neglect their duty to provide emergency care to those in need. The brief emphasizes that sanctioning the organization would have a chilling effect on emergency medical care.
The lawsuit is just one of many recent examples of the Turkish government’s assault on health care providers. During the Gezi Park protests, medical workers were subjected to tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets, and police detained and beat many others.
Other leading U.S. and European medical groups have also called for the dismissal of the case, including the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, the British Medical Association, the German Medical Association, International Federation of Health and Human Rights Organizations, the Irish Nurses and Midwifery Organizations, the Standing Committee of European Doctors, and the World Medical Association.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.