Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and State Violence: Medical Documentation of Torture in Turkey


State authorities invested in developing official expert discourses and practices to deny torture in post‐1980 coup d’état Turkey. Documentation of torture was therefore crucial for the incipient human rights movement there in the 1980s. Human rights physicians used their expertise not only to treat torture victims but also to document torture and eventually found the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) in 1990. Drawing on an ethnographic and archival research at the HRFT, this article examines the genealogy of anti‐torture struggles in Turkey and argues that locally mediated intimacies and/or hostilities between victims of state violence, human rights physicians, and official forensics reveal the limitations of certain universal humanitarian and human rights principles. It also shows that locally mediated long‐term humanitarian encounters around the question of political violence challenge forensic denial of violence and remake the legitimate levels of state violence.