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PHR Files Legal Brief in Support of Turkish Medical Association

Members of the Turkish Medical Association Charged for Providing Care to Injured Protesters

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) submitted an amicus brief today in support of members of the Turkish Medical Association (TMA) who will face trial for recruiting and organizing urgent medical care for protesters injured during the Gezi Park demonstrations that began in May 2013. The Turkish Ministry of Health brought a court suit against the governing and disciplinary boards of the TMA’s Ankara Chamber of Medicine on January 27, 2014, requesting their removal from office for providing care to protesters injured during the demonstrations. PHR’s brief emphasizes that the Turkish government used unnecessary and excessive force against demonstrators and attacked medical personnel who courageously provided care in the absence of onsite government health services. Thousands were wounded in various cities across the country, including serious injuries from tear gas canisters, excessive exposure to tear gas, projectile injuries from rubber bullets, and blunt trauma associated with beatings by police. The brief stresses that the TMA should not be sanctioned, as they not only followed international standards of medical ethics, but they also acted in accordance with the Turkish Penal Code, which makes it a crime for medical personnel to neglect their duty of providing emergency medical care to those in need.

“Spontaneous medical relief efforts were provided in mosques, shopping malls, hotels – anywhere possible and only for as long as the need existed,” said Dr. Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor. “The physicians who attended to injured demonstrators provided potentially life-saving triage and emergency care that likely prevented additional unnecessary injury and even death. Doctors should never be punished for following their professional and ethical duty of providing care without discrimination to those in need.”

Thousands of demonstrators were injured during the Gezi Park protests in dozens of cities across Türkiye. The TMA recruited and organized physicians to provide urgently needed emergency medical care to those injured demonstrators. The civil suit against TMA members is just one more attempt by the Turkish government to punish medical personnel in Türkiye who have courageously provided ethical medical care as required by our profession. In January, the Turkish president signed a new health bill that will criminalize certain aspects of emergency care and punish medical professionals with fines and jail time for providing care in emergencies. The Turkish government’s disregard for the health and well-being of gravely injured persons is inconsistent with the right to life and health as codified in international law.

PHR conducted a one-week investigation in Istanbul and Ankara from June 25 to July 2, 2013, during which time PHR interviewed more than 50 victims and witnesses of attacks on protesters and medical personnel. PHR’s investigation indicated that in response to peaceful protests that began in May 2013, the Turkish government used unnecessary and excessive force against protestors and attacked independent medical personnel who courageously provided care to the injured in accordance with international medical ethical standards and Turkish law.

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.

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