The unprecedented dismissal of 11 eminent Turkish physicians from their elected positions on the Central Council of the Turkish Medical Association (TMA), the country’s largest professional medical group, is a flagrant violation of international human rights law and ethical standards, said a global coalition of medical professional organizations.
On November 30, a civil court in Ankara arbitrarily dismissed these independent medical experts simply for exercising their professional and ethical responsibilities. They must be reinstated immediately.
DIGNITY, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, the Standing Committee of European Doctors Physicians for Human Rights (CPME), Physicians for Human Rights, and the World Medical Association demand that physicians not be punished for their commitment to their ethical obligations or to the principle of medical neutrality. We call for the immediate reinstatement of the members of the TMA’s Central Council and the end to government harassment of TMA members.
Members of the Turkish Medical Association have long faced government-led persecution. They have suffered arbitrary arrests and detentions, politically motivated and unfair trials, unlawful office searches, arbitrary dismissals, and defamation. During peaceful protests in 2013, they were also the targets of excessive use of force by police in the ensuing violence in violation of the international principles of medical neutrality and medical ethics for courageously treating all wounded persons without discrimination. Indeed, less than a year ago, the president of the TMA’s Central Council who was just dismissed, Şebnem Korur Fincancı MD – one of Turkey’s leading human rights activists and an internationally-recognized forensic expert – was sentenced to almost three years of imprisonment on politically motivated charges.
But the court’s dismissal of democratically elected members of the Central Council of the TMA is unprecedented in the Association’s 70-year history.
Together with Dr. Fincancı, the other Central Council members who have been arbitrarily dismissed are Second President Ali İhsan Ökten, General Secretary Vedat Bulut, Nursel Şahin, Onur Naci Karahancı, Kazım Doğan Eroğulları, Alican Bahadır, Ahmet Karer Yurtdaş, Adalet Çıbık, Aydın Şirin, and Lütfi Tiyekli. They have 15 days to appeal the ruling from the moment the court submits the ruling in writing, which has not yet happened.
Such judicial interference in the work of medical doctors is not only unlawful and unethical; it is also reckless. The ruling to dismiss the TMA leadership risks thousands of people’s access to ethical health care at a time when more than 100 doctors were killed in the February earthquake and emergency medical assistance has been under particular strain.
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.