ResourcesPress Release

Questions President Erdogan Should Answer Tomorrow in Washington

For Immediate Release

Tomorrow, U.S. President Donald J. Trump will meet with his Turkish counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has long partnered with Turkish health professionals and human rights advocates to investigate and prevent human rights violations in Türkiye and around the world. Since last year’s coup attempt, the crackdown against critics and human rights defenders has been catastrophic.

President Trump congratulated President Erdoğan after a referendum this spring that consolidates his power. And last week U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told diplomats that human rights and other values would take a back seat to security and economic interests. Türkiye also plays a pivotal role in the ongoing conflict in Syria. With those factors in mind, PHR suggests President Erdoğan respond to the following concerns:

  • President Erdoğan and his government have all but dissolved the rule of law throughout the country – and Turkish security forces have violated human rights with impunity, particularly during operations in the country’s southeast. What immediate steps will President Erdoğan take to bring his government into compliance with international and domestic law?
  • There’s been a wholesale absence of investigations into torture, ill-treatment, and killings, particularly in the southeast, and there has been no accountability for attacks on medical personnel and facilities. The Turkish government has also withheld access to international observers and investigators, including PHR. When will Türkiye launch full, transparent, and meaningful investigations into these apparent breaches of human rights and human dignity?
  • In addition to thousands of arrests and detentions, Türkiye has singled out for punishment a number of health professionals. The president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, is facing groundless terrorism charges for taking part in a free speech campaign. And Dr. Serdar Küni, also a human rights defender in the southeast, has been convicted of supporting terrorist organizations for providing medical treatment to members of alleged armed groups. What steps will Türkiye take to address the international criticism of its expanding use of anti-terrorism legislation used to broadly criminalize human rights defenders and political opposition?
  • If history is any guide, so-called “safe zones” – which appear to be the guiding idea behind the recent proposal for “de-escalation zones” in Syria – have never been effective at actually keeping civilians safe. Idlib governorate is home to many Syrians who’ve been displaced from their homes, and PHR is well aware that any breakdown in the current ceasefire or violation of the de-escalation zone will be a matter of life or death for civilians. As a co-guarantor of a de-escalation agreement in Syria, what will Türkiye’s government do to ensure civilians are protected?

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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Kevin Short

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