ECHR fines Turkey for medical misconduct during mandatory military service

ECHR fines Turkey for medical misconduct during mandatory military service

ECHR fines Turkey for medical misconduct during mandatory military service

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has fined Turkey 81,000 euros for degrading medical treatment that resulted in a Turkish soldier losing his sight during mandatory army service in 2001.

The ECHR’s ruling came after Hayrullah Akkoyunlu, a Turkish soldier who was serving in the southeastern province of Şırnak in 2001, filed a complaint with the ECHR over allegations that he had lost the sight in his left eye during his military service due to delays in access to medical care.

The ECHR said in a press release on Oct. 13 that it had concluded that Turkey had violated Article 3 – the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment – and fined the country 66,000 euros for pecuniary and 15,000 euros for non-pecuniary damages, respectively.

Akkoyunlu said he went to the infirmary of his regiment on July 25, 2001, complaining of severe pain in his left eye and that he was seen by a soldier who sent him away with eye drops, the ECHR said.

Disputing Akkoyunlu’s allegation, the government in power in Turkey at the time stated Akkoyunlu had in fact been examined by a military doctor. 

Akkoyunlu then went once more to the infirmary and was told to rest in his dormitory before he was eventually referred to a hospital on Aug. 2, 2001, where he was diagnosed with a corneal ulcer, it added.

The ECHR said Akkoyunlu started treatment but completely lost the sight in his left eye. “Akkoyunlu, who was born in 1981 and is living in Istanbul, was deemed no longer medically fit for military service in July 2002 and discharged from the army. He is now entitled to a disability pension.”

In October 2002, the ECHR said, Akkoyunlu brought compensation proceedings before the Supreme Military Administrative Court for the damage he had suffered to his eye during his military service on account of the delay in his treatment. 

He was informed by the medics at the hospital where he had been treated that it was crucial in corneal ulcer cases to have immediate treatment to prevent scarring of the cornea, it added. 

“In May 2005 the administrative court dismissed his claim. It based its decision on an expert report drawn up during the proceedings which concluded that the cause of Mr. Akkoyunlu’s corneal ulcer could not be determined and no fault could be attributed to the military authorities in his transfer, diagnosis or treatment,” the ECHR said. 

Neither the administrative court nor the experts appointed by it sought to question the doctor who had allegedly examined Akkoyunlu when he first went to the infirmary complaining of eye pain.