A civil court in Ankara today arbitrarily dismissed eleven of the most eminent physicians in Türkiye from their elected positions on the Central Council of the Turkish Medical Association, the country’s largest professional medical group. Physicians for Human Rights, the World Medical Association, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, and the Standing Committee of European Doctors call for the doctors’ immediate reinstatement.
These baseless charges are the latest attempt by the Turkish government to impede the independence of medical professionals, which it sees as a threat because their medical obligations to patients must be exercised outside of government control.
Since at least 2014, members of the TMA have been subjected to other forms of judicial harassment, including arbitrary detention and politically motivated trials, unlawful office searches, threats and imprisonment. With today’s ruling, the Turkish authorities are sending a threatening signal to all TMA members by punishing the eminent physicians they themselves elected.
One of the TMA leaders found guilty today, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, MD was convicted on criminal charges on 11 January of this year in a separate trial. After being held in pre-trial detention for nearly three months, she was sentenced to almost three years of imprisonment on spurious charges of “making terrorist propaganda” for voicing an independent medical opinion. She was convicted, but released pending her appeal.
“Charging our Turkish colleagues with conducting activities promoting the use of violence is not only incongruous, but also unfounded and dishonest,” said Dr. Jung Yul Park, Chair of the World Medical Association. “We witness the integrity and loyalty of TMA and its representatives and consider that these allegations are a threat to the entire medical profession.
“European doctors call on the Turkish authorities to unconditionally safeguard the autonomy and independence of the Turkish Medical Association,” said Dr. Christiaan Keijzer, president of the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME). “The medical profession is vital for society, and the trial of its leaders is a direct threat to patients, the health care system, and the population as a whole.”
“This court decision is just the latest in a relentless attack on the medical profession in Türkiye,” said Dr. Michele Heisler, medical director at Physicians for Human Rights. “Our colleagues are being unlawfully arrested, threatened with lengthy prison sentences, and harassed simply for standing up for medical ethics, patient-centered care, and human rights. The Turkish government’s persecution of physicians just for seeking to fulfill their professional obligations must stop now.”
Physicians for Human Rights, the World Medical Association, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, and the Standing Committee of European Doctors call for the dismissal of the TMA Central Council to be appealed and for all forms of harassment against them to cease immediately.
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.