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.




Information Note on the Second Hearing of the Trial of Prof.Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin

January 12th, 2017

Dear friends and colleagues,

As you know, Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı (HRFT President and a member of the Independent Forensic Expert Group), Erol Önderoğlu (Reporters Without Borders’ representative in Turkey), and Ahmet Nesin (Journalist-Writer) have been tried for serving as the editors-in-chief-on-watch for one day, in the scope of a campaign of solidarity with the Özgür Gündem Daily.

For defending freedom of expression and press, Fincancı, Önderoğlu, and Nesin are accused of “provoking commission of an offence”, “praising the offence and the offenders” and ”making propaganda of terrorist organization through means of press”.  If found guilty, they could face up to 14 years in jail.

The second hearing of the case took place at the Istanbul Çağlayan 13th Heavy Penal Court on January 11. Instead of dropping these unfounded charges, the Court decided to postpone the proceeding, after deciding to separate from the case, the file concerning İnan Kızılkaya, the editor-in-chief of the Daily, and joining it with other files concerning him, related to his position as being editor in chief. The third hearing of the case concerning Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Erol Önderoğlu, and Ahmet Nesin will take place on March 21st at 11 AM.

Representatives of several human rights organizations from throughout the world, including Miriam Reventlow, Director of Governance and Policy at International Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims; Angelika Claussen, Regional Vice President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War-Europe; Per Stadig, Vice Chairman of the Red Cross Foundation Sweden, Martin Schoenpflug from Zentrum Überleben, Bettina Birmanns from Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Kristina Tollback from International Commision of Jurists Swedish Section Board Member, Barbara Neppert from Amnesty International Germany,Ernst Ludwig Iskenius from Physicians Group of Amnesty International Germany, and Alper Öktem fromInternational Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War-Germany attended the hearing.

In the press release that followed the hearing, Financı stated, “The solidarity here shows that we are standing by the truth. The courthouses should be places where justice is established. We will struggle to make courthouses such places. Every word we spend is to bring humanity closer to justice.” NGO representatives, press members and rights defenders from Turkey and all over the world expressed their solidarity with Fincancı, Önderoğlu, and Nesin, and called on Turkish authorities to cease harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders.

We thank all our friends and colleagues, who attended to this valuable gathering, and who through various channels, provided their support and displayed solidarity with us, in the face of the unfounded charges concerning Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Erol Önderoğlu ve Ahmet Nesin, who have been pursuing justice and truth, as required by their professions of medicine and journalism.

Here, we once again express our wish that this meaningful solidarity is carried on in future, and will be repeated on March 21st, 2017.

Metin Bakkalcı

HRFT Secretary General



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)

Attacks on Civil Society in Turkey, Human Rights and Solidarity

LUTZ OETTE* – 17 November 2016

Protests and a show of strength demonstrate the importance of challenging a state that reverts to the arbitrary exercise of power.

Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincani, a forensic doctor, university professor, and human rights defender, has been a leading figure in the struggle against torture worldwide. Now she stands accused, together with two prominent journalists, Erol Önderoĝlu and Ahmet Nesin, of having committed serious crimes, including propaganda for terrorism.

The crime? Acting as a one day guest editor-in-chief for the now banned newspaper, Özgur Gündem Daily, to show solidarity with the editors who have faced prosecution.

As someone who has worked closely with Dr. Fincanci, I, and many others around the world who have come to know her as a passionate and compassionate defender of human rights, was appalled when I heard about the prosecution. This is not an ordinary case in what are extraordinary times in Turkey.

True, Özgur Gündem, a forum for Kurdish voices, has been the subject of repeated attacks on its press freedom going back to the 1990s, with the European Court of Human Rights repeatedly finding Turkey to be in breach of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. But today journalists, human rights defenders and others are experiencing a full-frontal assault.

This assault threatens to severely weaken the very fabric of civil society, and the tradition of civic engagement and resistance that is part and parcel of modern Turkey. When meeting doctors, lawyers and academics who do not fit the mould of the new dispensation, it is not a question if but how many, and what charges are pending against them, or whether they have been dismissed from their posts already.

Over a hundred journalists are in prison, making Turkey one of the main jailers of this profession worldwide. Eren Keskin, a prominent lawyer, has had to defend herself against a staggering number of more than a hundred charges. Thousands of academics have been dismissed by decree, without any due process. The judiciary has been purged, and cases bear the hallmarks of what Otto Kirchheimer in his classic work on the subject, called political trials, in which courts are used to pursue political goals.

Having a good defence, and relying eventually on the European Court of Human Rights to prevent or at least correct any injustices, would be at the core of legal strategies to counter unjustified criminal prosecutions. Yet, these steps are clearly not enough in the circumstances of what appears for all intents and purposes to be a concerted campaign, fully unleashed in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

In response, therefore, we decided to revert to direct action. We, that is a group of national and international journalists, human rights defenders and activists who got together both because we highly value the work of the accused and to defend freedom of the press and human rights in Turkey, organised a solidarity forum and demonstration, with plenty of media in attendance, and flooded the court room for the hearing of the case on 8 November 2016 before the Istanbul Heavy Penal Court.

Our intervention was not a typical trial observation in the sense of ensuring the propriety of proceedings. It was rather a more tumultuous affair in which the judges gave up attempts to limit the number of attendees, with many standing in the aisles while others were squeezing on the overflowing benches.

It directly challenged the legitimacy of the very court, created space to express counter-narratives, and provided intellectual and emotional support to the defendants. Was it successful? Two of the defendants present (the third defendant was absent), Dr. Fincanci and Mr. Önderoĝlu, gave passionate statements in defence of freedom of expression before the trial was postponed.

The eventual outcome of the trial is anyone’s guess but the defendants greatly welcomed the joint national and international solidarity, and found it empowering in what are very testing times for them.

The combined protest and show of strength through our presence demonstrated the importance of challenging a state that reverts to arbitrary exercise of power at every single step. It also served as antidote to voices fond of talking about the end of human rights as a liberal project; human rights have for a long time been about much more than that, certainly in Turkey.

Political trials also hold a message for those who are quick to dismiss courts, such as in the United Kingdom, if they are not siding with the government and fulfil the wishes of “the people”. They would do well to read the works of lawyers who fought against Nazi Germany. Key figures such as Ernst Fraenkel and Franz Neumann stressed the essential role and value of an independent judiciary, and of the rule of law while being mindful and critical of the biases and shortcomings of the administration of justice in liberal democracies.

Developments in Turkey are yet another reminder that this struggle needs to be fought again and again, and to make sure that those who are at the frontline of it receive our continuous support and solidarity.

*Dr. Lutz Oette is a senior lecturer in law at SOAS, University of London, and Director of the Centre for Human Rights Law at SOAS.

IRCT: “The IRCT Executive Committee Currently Discussing Possible Further Action in Support of Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı”


The IRCT welcomes the decision to release Sebnem Korur Fincanci, president of IRCT member centre Human Rights Foundation of Turkey. Dr Korur was arrested and detained on Monday, 20 June 2016, along with journalist Ahmet Nesin and Erol Önderoğlu (Reporters Without Borders) for her participation in a campaign against the suppression and investigation of the Özgür Gündem Journal.

Dr Korur and Mr Önderoğlu were released today while Mr Nesin remains in prison. The IRCT calls on the Prosecutor on Terror and Organised Crime to drop all the charges against them and immediately release Mr Nesin from detention. The IRCT also deplores the Turkish government’s ongoing harassment and targeting of human rights defenders in Turkey. The IRCT Executive Committee, currently meeting in Copenhagen and discussing possible further action in support of Dr Korur, has expressed delight at the decision to release Dr Korur.

“While we are very pleased to hear Dr Korur has been released, we continue to be deeply worried and shocked by the persistent threats and intimidation that our colleagues face from the Turkish government. It is abhorrent and unacceptable that people are imprisoned for believing in and standing up for human rights,” said Asger Kjærum, Director of Advocacy of the IRCT.

Following the arrest of the three human rights defenders, Dr Korur was taken to Bakırköy Women Closed Prison, while Mr Önderoğlu and Nesin were held in Metris Prison in Istanbul.

Statement on Arrest of the President of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey from the Parliament of Finland

We, members of the Human Rights Group of the Parliament of Finland are deeply worried about the recent developments in Turkey pertaining to freedom of the media and of expression and deterioration of the situation of human rights and Rule of Law in Turkey. 
We are especially concerned by the news of arrest on 20.6.2016 of the President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) Prof. Şebnem Korur Fincanci along with journalist Mr Erol Önderoğlu from international NGO Reporters Without Borders and author Mr Ahmet Nesin on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda, after they had participated a solidarity campaign against the censoring of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgur Gündem. Over 40 people have so far joined this campaign and prosecutors have initiated judicial investigations against all of them with the same charges of spreading terrorist propaganda.
We are extremely shocked by yet another terror attack occurred in Turkey two days ago and we wish to express our deepest condolences to the people affected by attacks and our solidarity with and support to Turkish authorities in combating terrorism. However, we recall that any security and anti-terrorism operations must be carried out in line with international law and in accordance with the principles of proportionality and necessity. The right balance between security and rights and liberties of individuals must be found in Turkey. 
In light of above, we call on the Turkish authorities to release immediately and unconditionally Prof. Şebnem Korur Fincanci, Mr. Erol Önderoğlu and Mr. Ahmet Nesin and guarantee their physical and psychological integrity in all circumstances. In investigating any allegations against them a fair procedure and respect of the principle of presumption of innocence is applied must be guaranteed. 
Moreover, we call on the Turkish government and the President of Turkey to make sure that Turkey respects its international commitments and guarantees respect of human rights of its citizens in line with the European Convention on Human Rights. 
In Helsinki 30th June 2016 
On behalf of the Human Rights Group of the Parliament of Finland 
Eva Biaudet, Chairperson
Jani Toivola, Vice-Chairperson
Erkki Tuomioja, Member
Susanna Huovinen, Member 
Li Andersson, Member
Antero Laukkanen, Member 
Ville Tavio, Member
Sari Tanus, Member
Timo Harakka, Member
Aila Paloniemi, Member
Satu Hassi, Member
Sari Essayah, Member
Nasima Razmyar, Member
Sanna Marin, Member 
Ozan Yanar, Member

These Releases are by Virtue of Great Efforts and Solidarity of All!


We are happy to inform you that 13th High Criminal Court has just issued interlocutory decision of release for Şebnem Korur Fincancı (President of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, HRFT) and Erol Önderoğlu (Turkey Representative of Reporters without Borders), who were arrested together with Ahmet Nesin (Journalist) on 20 June 2016 on charges of “making terror propaganda” through content and visual of news of Özgür Gündem when they served as the editors-in-chief for one day as a part of the Editor-in-chief on Duty” campaign of Özgür Gündem to provide solidarity and defend press freedom against a number of investigations it has faced. We are expecting that they will be released today. Their first court hearing will be held on 8 November 2016.

While Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Erol Önderoğlu will be released today, there is not any decision about Ahmet Nesin (journalist) yet since his case is followed by a different court. We will of course continue to follow his case closely.

We can say that this decision of release is a hopeful development and somehow reparation for suppression against human rights defenders in Turkey. Yet, we should not forget that this decision cannot eliminate lawlessness and insubstantiality of the case against them, which also means violation of human rights. Thus, we will work on showing the public what this arrest and case against Şebnem Korur Fincancı, who has dedicated her life to preventing human rights violations, mainly torture and ill-treatment supporting life of torture survivors in Turkey and all around the world to rebuild their lives; and pursuing justice for the crime of torture and other gross/serious human rights violations, means for human rights defenders in Turkey.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your valuable efforts and solidarity for their release; it had a great contribution to having this good news.

Warm regards,


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.”