Physicians Deeply Concerned By The Crisis In Turkey

The World Medical Association today expressed its deepest concern about human rights abuses in Turkey, especially those aimed against physicians and other health professionals.

Dr Delon Human, Secretary General of the WMA, said, “Human rights violations in Turkey are now reaching epidemic proportions. Our physician colleagues in Turkey are suffering terribly and urgent international action is now all that can save hundreds of dedicated professionals from dying in a hunger strike”.

His comment follows recent action taken by some 10,000 Turkish soldiers against prisoners in the country in which 26 prisoners and two soldiers died and 426 prisoners were injured. Hundreds of prisoners have now been transferred to more strict prisons and more than two thousand prisoners have gone on a hunger strike to protest against the harsh treatment. Some of them are now in their 67th day of fasting and in danger of losing their lives.

During the last two years the WMA has sent a number of independent observers to Turkey to attend court cases in which physicians have been charged for activities against the state. These trials mostly involved physicians who had provided medical care to individuals from anti-Government organizations or those who had become skilled in the detection and exposure of torture practices used against prisoners.

Dr Human, who has attended some of these trials, said: “No government can deny the right of physicians to provide medical care to patients, regardless of their race, religion or political affiliation. In addition, it is simply unacceptable that torture of any kind is allowed to continue – especially against those vulnerable members of society.

“Turkey is a nation keen on entering the European Union and the rest of the global society. Now is the time for the government of Turkey to openly and transparently examine all these allegations and act in an expeditious manner to rectify any mistakes and set and live by the highest possible standards of human rights”.

Dr Human said the WMA called for the following actions:

  • that the Turkish authorities do everything in their power to stop violence and torture in prisons;
  • that the Turkish authorities conduct an immediate and comprehensive investigation into the reasons for the hunger strikes, and stop all further detentions and transfers to F-type prisons until the crisis is resolved;
  • that an international delegation of physicians, lawyers and human rights experts is allowed to participate in the investigation to ensure impartiality and objectivity;
  • that prison officials end forced feeding of hunger strikers in line with the WMA’s respect for the autonomy of the patient;
  • that all attacks, torture and any other subversive actions against physicians, health professionals and patients are stopped immediately.