Turkey should stop using counter-terrorism legislation to intimidate human rights defenders and immediately release Dr Şebnem Korur Fincancı, head of Turkey’s Medical Association (TTB), from prison, rapporteurs at the United Nations said in a statement on Tuesday.
Fincancı’s arrest on 26 October was “on unclear grounds”, the rapporteurs said, and “believed to be in retaliation” for her public comments that allegations of chemical weapons use by the Turkish army should be properly investigated.
“Dr. Fincancı’s arrest appears part of a deliberate pattern of applying counter-terrorism legislation to discredit human rights defenders and organisations and interrupt their vital human rights and medical work,” they said.
Legislation used on spurious grounds aims to shrink safe civic space and undermine the rule of law, they added. “Human rights defenders and medical practitioners’ ability to speak truth to power must be protected.”
Turkey ratified the UN Convention against Torture in 1988, eight years after a military coup in which torture was routinely employed in police custody and prisons.
During her career as a forensic science expert, Fincancı helped develop the UN reference standards on investigation and documentation of torture cases, the rapporteurs said.
The rapporteurs said the Turkish authorities should immediately take interim measures to protect Fincancı’s physical and mental integrity, and “end the judicial harassment of those who defend the rights of others”.
Fincancı is currently being held in Sincan Prison in the Turkish capital Ankara, awaiting trial under Turkey’s terrorism laws and the newly-enacted disinformation act.
The UN experts who signed the statement are: Alice Jill Edwards, Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.