President of Turkey signs controversial medical aid bill into law

A controversial medical aid law has come into force in Turkey, criminalizing the provision of emergency first aid without government authorization.

The law took effect on Saturday, one day after the bill was signed into law by President Abdullah Gul.

Under the law, those convicted could face a three-year jail term or a fine of up to nearly USD 1 million.

The move has sparked an outcry from human rights activities fearing that the law could be used by police to intimidate medics treating protesters injured in anti-government demonstrations — like those that rocked Turkey in 2013.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has described the law as another attempt by the government of Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan to silent dissent.

“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,” said PHR senior medical advisor, Vincent Iacopino, who added, “This kind of targeting of the medical community is not only repugnant, but puts everyone’s health at risk.”

UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health Anand Grover, said days before the law came into effect that if adopted, “it will have a chilling effect on the availability and accessibility of emergency medical care in a country prone to natural disasters and a democracy that is not immune from demonstrations.”

During the nationwide protests of 2013, the Turkish doctors’ association repeatedly accused government forces of preventing medics from treating injured people.

Six people died and some 8,000 others were injured in clashes between police and anti-government protesters last year.

Source: Press TV, 19 January 2014

Tom Sullivan