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Turkey
18.11.21
Urgent Interventions

Turkey: Administrative harassment of physician and human rights defender Benan Koyuncu

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

TUR 008 / 1120 / OBS 122
Administrative harassment
Turkey
November 18, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your intervention in the following situation in Turkey.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the administrative harassment of Ms. Benan Koyuncu, a physician, member of the Ankara Medical Chamber, member of the Health and Social Services Workers’ Trade Union (SES) and a volunteer of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT)[1]. A prominent physician and human rights defender, Ms. Koyuncu has set a standard in Çankırı State Hospital to document torture and other ill-treatment in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol. She has regularly treated survivors of torture, individuals deprived of their liberty and refugees.

On September 29, 2021, the Directorate General for Administrative Services of the Ministry of Health ordered the dismissal of Benan Koyuncu from public service by the administrative action no. 17834, thus forbidding Ms. Koyuncu to practice her profession as a physician at the Çankırı State Hospital. The decision is justified under the vague grounds of “connection, affiliation or membership to terrorist organisations” (Provisional Article 35 of Decree Law 375) but fails to provide any further reasoning. Ms. Koyuncu has appealed this decision.

The Observatory believes that the dismissal of Benan Koyuncu is related to her legitimate human rights work and the application of good medical practices in her documentation of cases of torture and other ill-treatment. In this regard, the Observatory recalls this is not the first time Benan Koyuncu faces administrative harassment in retaliation to her human rights work. In 2019, her appointment as an emergency physician at the Çankırı State Hospital was blocked by the Ministry of Health on the grounds of a “security investigation and archive research” accusing her of “participating in public gatherings organised by terrorist organisations” and “disseminating terrorist propaganda on Twitter”. In February 2020, the Ankara 12th Administrative Court established this administrative investigation had no legal grounds and reversed the decision not to appoint Benan Koyuncu as a physician at the Çankırı State Hospital. This decision was upheld by the Ankara Regional Administrative Court in December 2020.

The Observatory condemns the administrative harassment of Benan Koyuncu and recalls that this is not the first time that physicians and members of the HRFT are being targeted because of their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities. These practices are used as a threat to civil society in conditions where the rule of law is inexistent and the judiciary lacks independence.

The Observatory urges the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the administrative and judicial levels, against Benan Koyuncu and all human rights defenders in Turkey.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Benan Koyuncu and of all human rights defenders in Turkey;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally reverse the decision of dismissal imposed to Benan Koyuncu and ensure she is able to carry out her legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions;

iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Benan Koyuncu and all human rights defenders in Turkey, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Refrain from the practice of abusing anti-terrorism legislation for silencing dissent and crackdown on human rights activities.

Addresses:

  • Ambassador Mr. Sadık Arslan, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: turkey.unog@mfa.gov.tr

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Turkey in your respective country.

***

Geneva-Paris, November 18, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • Tel OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39
  • Tel FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18


[1] Established in 1990, the HRFT is a non governmental and non-profit organisation providing treatment and rehabilitation services for torture survivors and documenting human rights violations in Turkey.

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