Double Trouble in Turkey

In Turkey, which still formally upholds an application to join the European Union, a new law expresses an unusual display of cynical disregard for the wounded, as well as another step towards making Turkey a genuinely totalitarian society. This has raised alarms in medical human rights circles and should be noted by Freedom House and elsewhere.

One such medical human rights organization is Physicians for Human Rights, whose spokesman Vincent Iacopino made this statement on the PHR web site:

Passing a bill that criminalizes emergency care and punishes those who care for injured protesters is part of the Turkish government’s relentless effort to silence any opposing voices,

Threatening to punish those who would be able and willing to aid people in urgent need  marks the end of Good Samaritan efforts in Turkey. It was a vain hope that President Abdullah Gül would stand for civil liberties and refuse to sign the law, for he signed it last Friday, according to RT and other sources. Then, the law could get challenged by the Turkish Constitutional Court, which is known to have challenged the AKP regime before.


Danish MEP Morten Messerschmidt gets help after taking a hit from a water cannon in Istanbul, June 22nd 2013 .

It is worth noting that the law targets only professionals, which means there will be no punishment for non-professionals to help the wounded and distressed, as MEP Dan Jørgensen did for his colleague Morten Messerschmidt last summer, Messerschmidt having been hit by some caustic chemical from the Turkish police water cannons.

Then, apart from outlawing professional emergency help, there is an additional troubling aspect to this, namely that the Turkish regime puts pressure on hospitals to provide them with names of wounded protesters, as well as the names of those who have helped them:

the Turkish Health Ministry launched a probe into those doctors treating protesters in June. They asked the Turkish Medical Association (TBB) to hand over the names of the doctors and their patients.

The report from Russian news channel RT continues:

Recently we were inspected by the Ministry of Health, they said what we were doing here is wrong. But there could be no punishment for those who are helping people. There is no such religion or law that could discriminate against us,” Abtullah Cengiz, spokesman for the Gezi Park doctors, told RT in June.

That was then, June 2013. Now, in January 2014, there is such a law.

The International Sakharov Committee notes the dual repressive effect of this law, and considers it an instrument of repression in line with what used to take place in the Soviet Union. The Committee therefore calls upon Western leaders to condemn Turkey for taking another step away from democracy and inalienable human rights, and in particular we call upon the European Union to respond by suspending its EU negotiations until solid human rights improvements are on record, including having this meaningless law repealed.

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