Human Rights Award to HRFT President Prof. Şebnem Korur Fincancı

19 April 2017

Today, we are honored to announce that the President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) forensic expert Prof. Şebnem Korur Fincancı is awarded with the Human Rights Award of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).

Prof. Fincancı, who received her award on 18 April 2017 in New York at the Annual Gala of PHR, is one of Turkey’s leading human rights defenders and a world-renowned forensic expert. She is one of the authors of the Istanbul Protocol – the internationally recognized global standard for investigating and documenting torture.

In this respect, we support the words of Prof. Şebnem Korur Fincancı on never loosing hope and always keeping solidarity strong “We depend on each other. Humanity needs each other.” Thus, by being aware of the importance of this international solidarity that we have, we, as the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, are grateful first to PHR for their valuable award and to all our friends whom we are in solidarity with. Moreover we would also like to state our belief on this precious solidarity environment that we built all together in accordance with our common cause on achieving the values of human rights for everyone and in everywhere, is getting stronger by each hardship we have confronted and with each passing day.




Turkey Prolongs Unlawful Detention of Physician Who Treated Patients During Unrest in Southeast

New York, NY – 03/17/2017

A court in the southeastern Turkish city of Şırnak has ordered the continued arbitrary detention of Dr. Serdar Küni, a member of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey and former president of the Şırnak medical chamber, this week extending his five-month confinement by at least another month.

Dr. Küni is charged with providing medical treatment to alleged members of Kurdish armed groups. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) – which attended and moitored the trial on March 13 – demands the immediate dismissal of all legal actions against Dr. Küni and a stop to the ongoing persecution of health workers in Turkey’s southeast.

Dr. Küni was arrested and detained on October 19, 2016 on charges that he provided medical treatment to alleged members of Kurdish armed groups while they clashed with Turkish security forces in 2015 and 2016. In a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, PHR wrote that the charges against Dr. Küni are part of a wave of arbitrary arrests and prosecutions of health workers throughout Turkey’s southeast. At the conclusion of this week’s trial, a judge ordered that Dr. Küni remain in custody until a second hearing set for April 24.

“By bringing criminal charges against doctors who treat patients, Turkey is sending a chilling message that undermines the medical profession and prevents access to health care,” said Susannah Sirkin, PHR’s director of international policy and partnerships. “We observed similar tactics of intimidation and harassment used against doctors attempting to treat protesters at Istanbul’s Gezi Park in 2013 and against doctors all over Turkey standing up for human rights during the state of emergency imposed after last July’s attempted military coup.”

“It is unlawful for the Turkish authorities to punish Dr. Küni for simply doing his job,” said Sirkin. “A doctor’s duty is to treat the sick and wounded, regardless of a patient’s race, nationality, political affiliation, or status as a party to a conflict.”

The continued detention and prosecution of Dr. Serdar Küni runs counter to Turkey’s obligations under international human rights law to provide effective protection for health care workers, including during times of conflict, unrest, or emergency. Such obligations also allow health professionals to provide care for all without discrimination, in accordance with international medical ethics. The UN General Assembly resolution on the Principles of Medical Ethics (A/RES/37/194), which is applicable in and outside of armed conflict situations, likewise obligates states not to compel medical personnel to undertake actions that contravene medical ethics, including refusing to provide treatment. The arrest of medical professionals for delivering treatment may amount to arbitrary arrest and detention under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Turkey is a state party.

PHR also said Turkey is failing its obligation under international law to conduct proceedings against Dr. Küni that meet international fair trial standards. PHR observed four witnesses withdraw their statements against Dr. Küni on March 13, alleging they had been tortured in police custody and coerced into signing statements that were then used as evidence to detain and charge Dr. Küni. International law prohibits the use of evidence elicited by torture, ill-treatment, or coercion. The prohibition applies at all times, including during times of emergency and regardless of the seriousness of the alleged crime. Turkish domestic law also prohibits the use of evidence obtained through torture, ill-treatment, or coercion.

Despite the lack of evidence and the witnesses’ withdrawal of their statements, the judge remanded Dr. Küni to custody. The judge also failed to order inquiries into the allegations of torture from the witnesses, but did request medical records kept during their time in custody.

“Turkish authorities should immediately drop all legal actions against Dr. Küni and release him from detention,” said Sirkin. “Turkish authorities must also ensure that all legal proceedings meet international fair trial standards. The legal proceedings against Dr. Küni in Şırnak raise serious questions about the independence and impartiality of Turkish courts in the current climate within the country, and represent an alarming assault on medical neutrality.”


Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) conducted an investigation in April 2016 into reports of violations of human rights and medical neutrality in southeastern Turkey starting in July 2015. The Turkish government sent thousands of Turkish soldiers and special operations police forces into the southeast to quell an uprising of youth militias seeking greater Kurdish autonomy. The government imposed dozens of curfews on entire towns and cities, cutting off access to water, food, electricity, and health care, even in emergency situations. In response, some health professionals living in neighborhoods under curfew treated the wounded and sick from their homes, or remained stationed around-the-clock at hospitals.

PHR documented several incidents in which health professionals, including ambulance drivers, were shot at or killed while responding to calls for emergency care in neighborhoods under curfew. Between July 2015 and June 2016, numerous health care workers were either charged with the crimes of “making terrorist propaganda” and “being part of an illegal organization, or were subjected to administrative inquiries by the Ministry of Health, in some cases for treating alleged members of the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement or Kurdistan Workers’ Party in hospitals in areas under curfew. For more detail, see PHR’s August 2016 report “Southeastern Turkey: Health Care Under Siege.”

Legal actions, both criminal and administrative, that punish health professionals for carrying out their duties are in direct violation of the Turkish state’s international human rights obligations. International humanitarian law and international human rights law both mandate the protection of health professionals in order to allow them to fulfill their duties to provide care for those in need, without regard to any element of identity, affiliation, or political opinion. These medical professionals should therefore not be criminalized.

PHR has also repeatedly called for Turkish authorities to cease the ongoing harassment of medical professionals, lawyers, academics, journalists, and other human rights defenders in Turkey since the outbreak of hostilities in southeastern Turkey in July 2015, and exacerbated by last year’s attempted military coup.

You can visit PHR’s web site through the link.

Call For the Internationally Participated Forum on Good Medical Practice and the Trial of MD.Serdar Küni!

March, 7, 2017

The first hearing of the case concerning former President of Şırnak Medical Association and HRFT Cizre Reference Center Representative MD.Serdar Küni, who is “detained” now for approximately 5 months, will be held at the Şırnak 2nd Heavy Penal Court on Monday, March 13th, 2017 at 1.45 pm.

Serdar Küni, who has been, despite immense difficulties, decisively practicing medicine in Cizre for years with a strong commitment to the fundamental values; was arrested on October 19, 2016 with groundless allegations concerning his professional practices.

serdar fotoDuring the next steps of this “trial”, we will expose these groundless allegations and the value of good medical practices through MD.Serdar Küni, who practiced his profession especially within the region that is going through massive pain for years in the witness of everyone by the fundamental ethical and scientific references of medicine. We will be altogether in Şırnak on March 13th to remind everyone that the real target of this “trial” is national and international law and conventions, universal ethical principles and human conscience, and that good medical practice cannot be prosecuted!

We are honored to express that, herewith, the solidarity for good medical practice gets beyond the borders. Representatives of several international medical and human rights organizations from throughout the World, including Bjorn Oscar Hoftved from World Medical Association and Norwegian Medical Association, Susannah Sirkin from Physcians for Human Rights (PHR), Per Stadig from Red Cross Foundation Sweden, Lutz Oette from School of Oriental and African Studies Law Department and Rudi Friedrich from War Resisters’ International (WRI) will be participating the Forum on Good Medical Practice in Diyarbakır on March 12th, at 11 am along with General Secretary of Turkish Medical Association MD. Sezai Berber, former presidents of TMA Prof.MD Gençay Gürsoy and Prof.MD. Özdemir Aktan and General Secretary of HRFT MD. Metin Bakkalcı and many more representatives of different cities in Turkey.

Right after the forum, we will be together for the Peace, Companionship and Democracy Award Ceremony which is granted by Diyarbakır Medical Chamber since 1996. The awardees of 2017 are MD.Serdar KÜNİ, who practiced medicine in Cizre with a strong commitment to the fundamental values of the profession and laid claim on ethics of medicine, human rights and right to health of people on any grounds and therefore got arrested, and writer Aslı ERDOĞAN, in the name of all intellectuals and writers due to her act and statements that strengthens human rights struggle during these difficult times.

Right after the forum, we will be off to Şırnak for the next day trial, including the attendance of Ernst Ludwig Iskenius from Physicians Group of Amnesty International-Germany and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).

We have trust in our solidarity and looking forward to share and strengthen our values all together on March 12th at the forum and award ceremony in Diyarbakır and on March 13th at the trial in Şırnak.


Turkish Medical Associations

Diyarbakır Medical Association

Human Rights Association

Please click here to download the call and the programme as pdf.

serdar programme

serdar small

PHR: “Turkish Court Continues Baseless Case Against Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı”

PHR continues to call for end to persecution of Fincancı, all human rights defenders in Turkey.

11 January 2017

A criminal court in Istanbul today again postponed the trial of prominent human rights defender Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey and a longtime friend and colleague of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). Last spring, Dr. Fincancı and two co-defendants were arrested, briefly imprisoned, and charged for disseminating “terrorist propaganda” after taking part in a solidarity campaign with a newspaper critical of Turkey’s government. Proceedings will resume March 21. PHR today reiterated its call to drop all charges against Dr. Fincancı, her co-defendants, and other members of civil society who are being unjustly prosecuted.

“The continued persecution of Dr. Fincancı is antithetical to the rule of law, a brazen attempt to silence one of Turkey and the world’s most respected human rights defenders,” said PHR executive director Donna McKay. “Throughout her career, Dr. Fincancı has done nothing but support the rights and freedoms of others. And for that, she is being punished. In its quest to rid the country of any and all dissent, the Turkish government is using the excuse of terrorism and national security to persecute anyone who dares to speak out against it. Dissent, advocating for the rights of others, investigating impunity: those are not crimes.”

Last November, a delegation from PHR joined an international observation mission and solidarity rally for Dr. Fincancı, her co-defendants Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin, as well as thousands of other human rights defenders and activists currently being persecuted by the Turkish government. Dr. Fincancı, a forensic physician, has spent much of her career fighting torture and ill-treatment in Turkey and globally. Alongside anti-torture experts from around the world, Dr. Fincancı and PHR collaborated in the creation of the Istanbul Protocol, considered the international standard for forensic investigations of torture.

“Dr. Fincancı should be celebrated for the incredible work she’s done to use the power of science and medicine to defend the rights of the vulnerable. Instead, she is being held in legal limbo, forced to endure imprisonment and now an opaque legal process. The Turkish government is hoping those of us in the international community will forget about Dr. Fincancı and her colleagues. We are not going anywhere. We will not back down until these charges are dropped and Dr. Fincancı and her co-defendants are exonerated.”

In addition to targeting Dr. Fincancı, Turkish authorities continue to detain Dr. Serdar Küni, also a member of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey. Dr. Küni is the Foundation’s representative in the southeastern Turkish city of Cizre, where last year Turkish security forces imposed a curfew as part of a larger unlawful imposition of a state of emergency across the country’s southeast. In August, PHR reported on repeated human rights violations by Turkish authorities in the region.

“Dr. Küni, Dr. Fincancı, and the entire community of medical human rights professionals are under threat in Turkey,” said PHR’s McKay. “Every day, they place the principles of justice and humanity ahead of their own personal comfort and safety. We urge Turkish government prosecutors to drop these absurd charges that diminish Turkey’s standing in the world and its claims at being a just, rights-abiding society.”

Human Rights On Trial in Turkey

Donna McKay* – 21.11.2016

It was standing room only inside Europe’s largest courthouse, a fortress of a structure just north of Istanbul’s historic city center. I was crammed alongside human rights defenders and doctors from across Turkey and around the world to support our colleague and friend, Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, a forensic physician and long-time torture investigator put on trial for exercising the very rights she has spent a career defending.

Accused of disseminating “terrorist propaganda” for taking part in a freedom of expression campaign, Dr. Fincancı is one of thousands of Turks who have faced punishment in recent months for criticizing a government that has increasingly flouted international law and human rights norms – and has shown a willingness to vilify anyone who opposes its actions.

Dr. Fincancı and her co-defendants pr2016-11-21-1479764745-5003646-SebnemDay1181.JPGesented their defense. Before the prosecutor could present his case, the three-judge panel chose to postpone the proceedings until January. This tactic, often used to sap the publicity surrounding a case, would effectively give the Turkish government more latitude in punishing Fincancı, and all those who dare speak out against it.

At a dinner that evening, rather than indulging in self-pity or fear, Dr. Fincancı – who also serves as president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey – was upbeat. She thanked our delegation for supporting her, and said that if she were to face jail time, at least she’d gain access to prisons, which have long been off-limits to human rights investigators like her. It was a moment of both levity and courage that heartened everyone in the room.

Turkey’s democratic backslide is merely a chapter in what is fast becoming a global story of burgeoning anti-democratic forces. Dark clouds are on the horizon not just in Turkey, but in Russia, in Hungary, in Egypt, in France, and, yes, in the United States. The same day Dr. Fincancı stood trial, voters in the United States elected to the presidency Donald Trump, a man who has threatened to deport millions, re-introduce torture, and punish those who criticize him.

Turkey is an example of what happens when such authoritarian forces have a free hand. Days before our arrival, the leaders of the country’s opposition Kurdish party were arrested and detained. Dozens of journalists at the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet were locked up. Whereas a few weeks ago we were optimistic that charges against Dr. Fincancı would be dropped, our optimism has since faded in the face of widespread suppression with such blatant impunity.


What we see in Turkey is the logical conclusion of threats like those Trump has made. He led chants of “lock her up” against his opponent Hillary Clinton. He pledged to bring back waterboarding “and a whole lot worse.” And he appears to be allying himself with the likes of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a man who has dropped bombs on hospitals across Syria, killing and violating international law with a shameless disregard for human life.

Together, leaders like Putin and Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan represent a threat to the global human rights movement and to human dignity everywhere.

For human rights defenders, it can feel as though we are moving from the golden years of human rights to the dark days. But at this moment, it’s more important than ever that human rights advocates show solidarity. It may seem like a small act, but rallying in person or online, volunteering or making a small donation, marching and protesting in the streets – these are all powerful gestures. Tyrants want to see us silenced. Our solidarity is proof that we cannot and will not be quiet in the face of repression.

For now, we can follow the lead of Dr. Fincancı, who is brave in the face of danger; funny and fearless in times of crisis; warm in a world that can seem cold to the needs and suffering of others. In each of us the flame of hope burns bright, and together we can light the way forward.

*Executive Director, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)

Turkish Authorities Release Human Rights Defender from Prison

PHR Demands Turkish Prosecutors Now Drop All Charges Against Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Two Others

New York, NY – 06/30/2016

The president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, was released from a Turkish prison today, along with Erol Önderoğlu of Reporters Without Borders. Fincancı, Önderoğlu, and writer Ahmet Nesin were arrested earlier this month on terror-related charges for their participation in a press freedom campaign. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) was part of a global campaign advocating for their release. Nesin remains in custody, and criminal charges against the three remain in place.

“We are incredibly relieved that today Şebnem – a close ally and friend of PHR – can go home,” said Christine Mehta, a researcher at PHR who led a recent investigation in Turkey. “But releasing her from prison isn’t enough. These ludicrous, trumped-up terror charges against her and her colleagues still stand. Prosecutors in Turkey must drop them immediately. ”

Fincancı, Önderoğlu, and Nesin were arrested and detained after taking part in a solidarity campaign defending the editorial independence of Özgür Gündem, a paper aligned with Turkey’s Kurdish minority and frequently critical of the Turkish government. They were being held in pre-trial detention for allegedly distributing “terrorist propaganda” under Turkey’s widely-denounced anti-terror laws.

“This week’s horrific attacks on Istanbul’s international airport demonstrate the very real threat terrorists pose to the Turkish people,” said PHR’s Mehta. “But dissent does not equal terrorism. Turkey’s government has long waged a campaign of intimidation against those who exercise their right to free speech in criticizing the country’s leadership. Confusing human rights defenders with radical extremists only weakens Turkey’s ability to counter violence.”

PHR has worked with Fincancı and her affiliated organizations for more than 20 years to end torture worldwide, together developing the Istanbul Protocol, the global standard for carrying out torture-related investigations, and training a generation of doctors and scientists in Turkey and around the world in forensic investigative techniques. Fincancı’s expertise contributed to the first-ever successful torture prosecution in Turkey.

The United Nations has repeatedly criticized the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for human rights violations, including violence against and harassment of human rights defenders, journalists, and doctors who advocate on behalf of victims of torture.

“Faced with multiple global pressures, Turkey can no longer afford to punish those who only seek to strengthen freedom and human rights,” said PHR’s Mehta. “If Turkey’s government truly seeks to be regarded as a rights-based society, it must treat those who fight for freedom and human rights with the respect all humans deserve.”