Turkish President Urged to Drop Charges Against Human Rights Defenders

(24.06.2016) A call for all charges to be dropped against one of Turkey’s leading doctors and two campaigning journalists and for their immediate release from prison has come from the World Medical Association and four other organisations. The call coincides with the International Day in support of Victims of Torture (26 June).

In a letter to the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the WMA expresses its deepest concern at the recent arrest of the three individuals – Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, and two journalists, Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin – following their participation in a solidarity campaign to support the Journal of Özgür Gündem that is currently under investigation and threatened with closure.

The letter, jointly signed with the Turkish Medical Association, Physicians for Human Rights, the Standing Committee of European Doctors and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, urges President Erdoğan to:

- release the three immediately and unconditionally, and drop all charges against them ‘since their detention is arbitrary as it only aims at preventing freedom of expression and their human rights activities’;

- put an end to all acts of harassment and intimidation, including at the judicial level, against human rights defenders and journalists;

- put an end to the continuous threat to human rights defenders in line with Turkey’s international commitments and comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders;

- ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Turkey.

The letter from the five organisations says the arrests are not compatible with international human rights standards, in particular the freedom of opinion and expression as stated in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and adds:

‘Free, independent and varied media based on freedom of information and expression is a core element of any functioning democracy. It is in fact indispensable for the protection of all other human rights.

‘In addition, Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı has a long-standing commitment at domestic and international level on the fight against human rights violations, mainly torture and ill-treatment. As concerned health professionals, we fully share her commitment and have been supporting her actions as President of HRFT in combating these unacceptable breaches of fundamental rights.’

Sir Michael Marmot, WMA President, added: ‘It is appalling that still today those who fight for our rights and dignity are the ones who are kept silent and confined. It is a disgrace for democracy and these arrests just at the time of the International Day in support of Victims of Torture is a grim irony’.