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For Immediate Release

Turkish President Signs Bill that Criminalizes Emergency Medical Care

PHR and Leading Medical Groups Oppose the Legislation

Media Contact

Vesna Jaksic Lowe, MS

Media Relations Manager, New York
Tel: 917-679-0110

New York, NY - 01/17/2014

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) expressed concern today over the Turkish president’s signing of a bill that will criminalize certain aspects of emergency care, and punish medical professionals with fines and jail time for providing care in emergencies.

PHR, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, the World Medical Association, the British Medical Association, the German Medical Association, and other leading medical groups have all criticized the bill, which could compromise everyone’s access to emergency medical care in Turkey. 

“Passing a bill that criminalizes emergency care and punishes those who care for injured protestors is part of the Turkish government’s relentless effort to silence any opposing voices,” said Dr. Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor. “This kind of targeting of the medical community is not only repugnant, but puts everyone’s health at risk. The legislation conflicts with Turkey’s own laws, and must now be blocked through Turkey’s constitutional court.” 

In addition to violating international standards and medical ethics, the bill conflicts with the Turkish Penal Code, which makes it a crime for doctors to neglect their duty of providing medical care.

Abdullah Gül, president of the Turkish Republic, today signed the bill into law. Medical professionals could be imprisoned for up to three years and fined up to approximately $985,000 for providing essential medical services. The bill will put doctors in direct conflict with their ethical and professional responsibilities to care for the sick and wounded. It is part of the Turkish government’s continuing effort to harass the medical community for treating those in need, including demonstrators injured during last summer’s anti-government protests.

PHR has documented the Turkish authorities’ unlawful use of force and tear gas, as well as deliberate attacks on the medical community. PHR’s report on last summer’s protests discussed the authorities’ detention of medical staff who treated those injured by the police, as well as the government’s efforts to collect the names of injured demonstrators and those treating them.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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