Şebnem Korur Fincancı, MD is one of Turkey’s leading human rights activists and an internationally-recognized forensic expert. President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Turkey’s largest human rights organization (together with the Human Rights Association as the founding organization), Dr. Fincancı is one of the authors of the Istanbul Protocol, the international standard for forensic investigation and documentation of torture. She was the head of Istanbul University’s forensic medical department until she was forced from the position because of her support for human rights and academic freedom. She is one of the founders of the Turkish Penal Code association.
Dr. Fincancı began her anti-torture work in the 1990s, documenting cases of torture and writing about medical ethical obligations despite opposition and oppressive measures by the Turkish government. She has continually fought to ensure that the forensic medical department at Istanbul University would not become an arm of the state. In 1996, Dr. Fincancı investigated mass graves in Bosnia on behalf of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal. She began her work with PHR in 1996 and took part in a program started by the organization in South Africa. She has worked with the World Health Organization on the Sexual Violence against Women Handbook and has investigated deaths in detention in Bahrain, Israel and the Philippines while elaborated medico-legal reports for torture survivors in several countries.
Dr. Fincancı was arrested in June 2016 and charged with making terrorist propaganda for her participation in a campaign supporting freedom of the press. She was released 10 days later and acquitted in July 2019 after a campaign by several Turkish and international human rights organizations, including PHR. After the prosecutor’s objection, however, Dr. Fincancı’s case file was sent to the appeal court.
Also in 2016, Dr. Fincancı signed the Academics for Peace petition “We will not be party to this crime,” which called for an immediate end to the massacre and deportation of Kurds by the Turkish government. In December 2018, she was sentenced to two years and six months in prison, one of the longest sentences given to a signatory. She has appealed the decision and has not been imprisoned; her case is pending.
Dr. Fincancı has received numerous awards, including the Hessian Peace Prize in 2018 and the Hrant Dink Award in 2014. She has served on the board of the Forensic Medical Experts Association, the Istanbul Medical Chamber, the Turkish Medical Association, and the Human Rights Advisory Board of the Prime Ministry. She was honored at the 2017 PHR gala, where she received the Physicians for Human Rights Award.
Dr. Fincancı graduated from the Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine at Istanbul University in 1983 and finalized her specialization training at the Forensic Medical Institute in 1987. She received her associate professorship at Istanbul University in 1990, her professorship in 1996, and was promoted to the head of the department in 1997. In 1999, she established the first forensic medical outpatient clinic in Turkey. Dr. Fincancı has also studied classical archaeology at Istanbul University.