The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your intervention in the following situation in Turkey.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention of Ms. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, President of the Turkish Medical Association (Türk Tabipler Birliği – TTB) and Board Member of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT).
On October 26, 2022, Anti-terror branch police officers arbitrarily arrested Şebnem Korur Fincancı in her home in Istanbul and brought her to the Directorate of security for questioning.
Ms. Korur Fincancı’s arrest is linked to a statement she made in the press on the occasion of a conference she gave in Germany on October 19, 2022, in her capacity of President of the Turkish Medical Association, about allegations of the use of chemical weapon by Turkey in Kurdistan regional federation of Iraq. On October 25, 2022, in reaction to this statement and following her return to Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave a press conference after the Committee of Ministers in which he stated that the authorities in Turkey will do whatever it takes to stop the Turkish Medical Association, and Şebnem Korur Fincancı particularly, mentioning judicial steps. Ms. Korur Fincancı has been directly targeted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ever since she was elected as chair of the Turkish Medical Association.
The Observatory recalls that in a speech at a Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi - AKP) meeting in October 2020, the President of Turkey condemned TTB for electing “someone from the terrorist organisation” as their chair. Further, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetci Hareket Partisi - MHP) has been keen on targeting Ms. Korur Fincancı and the TTB.
The Observatory underlines that Şebnem Korur Fincancı’s arrest takes place as the authorities in Turkey are in the process of closing the Turkish Medical Association and replace her by a trustee.
The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time that Ms. Korur Fincancı has been arrested for her legitimate human rights work. In June 2016, she was arbitrarily imprisoned for 10 days and prosecuted for “terrorist propaganda” for her participation in the “co-editor-in-chief ” campaign of Özgür Gündem (Free Agenda) to support the imprisoned editorial staff of the newspaper. She was acquitted by the court of first instance in July 2019 but the verdict was appealed by the prosecutor and was overturned by the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Appeals Court in November 2020. The re-trial began on February 3, 2021 and the proceedings are ongoing. In another case that was based on her social media posts in relation to the Gezi Park protests, she was convicted of “insulting a public official” on February 16, 2021, and received a monetary fine of 7,800 TRY (approximately 870 Euros).
The Observatory strongly condemns Şebnem Korur Fincancı’s arbitrary arrest which seems to be only aimed at punishing her for her legitimate human rights activities and the exercise of her right to freedom of expression.
The Observatory urges the authorities in Turkey to immediately and unconditionally release Şebnem Korur Fincancı and to put an end to the incessant judicial harassment and targeting she is subjected to.
The Observatory more generally calls on the authorities to ensure that all human rights organisations and human rights defenders in Turkey are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.
Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Şebnem Korur Fincancı, as well as all human rights defenders in Turkey;
ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Şebnem Korur Fincancı, as her arrest is arbitrary since it only aims at punishing her for her legitimate human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level – against Şebnem Korur Fincancı and all other human rights defenders in Turkey, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.
• President of the Republic of Turkey, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Email: email@example.com
• Minister of Justice, Mr. Mr. Bekir Bozdağ. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Minister of Interior, Mr. Süleyman Soylu. Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
• Ambassador Mr. Mehmet Kemal Bozay, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium. Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
• Ambassador Mr. Sadık Arslan, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Turkey in your respective country.