Adopted by the 206th WMA Council Session, Livingstone, April 2017
and reaffirmed as a Resolution by the 71st WMA General Assembly (online), Cordoba, Spain, October 2020
The World Medical Association notes with serious concerns that Dr Serdar Küni, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey’s representative in Cizre and former president of the Şırnak medical chamber, is still imprisoned after 6 months of detention, on charges that he provided medical treatment to alleged members of Kurdish armed groups.
The case of Dr. Küni is one example amongst many of ongoing arrests, detentions, and dismissals of physicians and other health professionals in Turkey since July 2015, when unrest broke out in the southeast.
The WMA condemns such practices that threaten gravely the safety of physicians and the provision of health-care services. The protection of health professionals is fundamental, so that they can fulfil their duties to provide care for those in need, without regard to any element of identity, affiliation, or political opinion.
The WMA recalls the standards of international human rights law, specifically the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) ratified by Turkey. The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights guarantees in its article 12 “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”. This implies ensuring access to high quality healthcare, supported by a functioning healthcare system and safe conditions for the health workforce.
The WMA recalls as well the standards of international humanitarian law as well as the UN Security Council Resolution S/RES/2286 on Health Care in Armed Conflict that mandates that states should not punish medical personnel for carrying out medical activities compatible with medical ethics, or compel them to undertake actions that contravene these standards.
Furthermore, the WMA reaffirms the principles of medical ethics, including the WMA Regulations in Times of Armed Conflict and Other Situations of Violence as well as the Ethical Principles of Health Care in Times of Armed Conflict and Other Emergencies endorsed by the ICRC, civilian and military health-care organisations.
The WMA considers that punishing a physician for providing care to a patient constitutes a flagrant breach of international humanitarian and human rights standards as well as medical ethics. Ultimately it contravenes to the principle of humanity that includes the imperative to preserve human dignity.
Thus, in view of the next hearing on 24 April regarding Dr. Küni case at the Şırnak 2nd Heavy Penal Court, the WMA urges national medical associations and the international health community to mobilise in support of the immediate release of Dr. Serdar Küni and the charges based on his medical practice be dropped immediately and unconditionally.
The WMA calls as well national medical associations and the international health community to advocate for:
- The full respect of Turkey’s humanitarian and human rights obligations, including the right to health, freedom of association and expression as well as the access to a fair trial;
- The provision of effective remedy and reparation to victims of arbitrary arrests and detentions.