Urgent Interventions

Turkey: increased violence along a pipeline's route

Case TUR 260303.ESCR
Arbitrary arrests and detentions/Harassment/Right to adequate housing/Right to food/Right to work

The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Turkey.

Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by a reliable source of the human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions and arrests, related to the implementation of the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey pipeline project, which consists notably in the construction of the Baku-Tbilissi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline in Turkey.

According to the information received, arbitrary arrests and detentions in the north-eastern region of Turkey have increased markedly over the last few months, along with a pattern of constant surveillance, evident human rights abuses, military harassment and intimidation along the pipeline route. In this respect, concerns have been expressed that the construction of the BTC pipeline is having a detrimental effect on the security and human rights situation in the north-eastern region of the country.

An international fact-finding mission conducting an impact-assessment of the BTC oil pipeline project between Sivas and Posof was reportedly detained twice on Friday 21st 2003 (1). It is reported that during a visit to a village near Ardahan, the gendarmerie and the Turkish military arrested the members of the fact-finding mission, took their passports and detained them for over an hour. According to the information received, after their release, the members of the fact-finding mission were followed for approximately half an hour before being ordered to return to the gendarmerie where they were detained again. After their release, the members of the fact-finding mission were followed back to their hotel where they discovered that all of their luggage (except one) had been searched. Overall, the members of the fact-finding mission reportedly have been followed during their mission by up to fifteen plainclothes security men and uniformed officers. These circumstances rendered the fact finding mission's task of interviewing locally affected peoples by the BTC pipeline virtually impossible. Moreover, fears have been expressed about the personal security of those persons who were interviewed by the fact-finding mission.

Background Information

Turkey is planning to construct a 1000 kilometre-long oil pipeline running from the Georgian border to the Mediterranean coast on behalf of a consortium of oil companies, known as the BTC Co. and led by British Petroleum (BP). The nationalised Turkish pipeline company BOTAS has been contracted, for an agreed price, to construct the pipeline. According to the information received, the construction of the pipeline is planned to start in April-May 2004.

BP's Chief Executive John Browne reported that BP would only build the pipeline if "free money" were offered by governments. Indeed, only 30% of the US$ 3.3 billion cost of the pipeline will come from the oil companies involved, the remainder coming from the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

According to the information received (2), several irregularities surround the implementation of the BTC pipeline project and include, among others, flaws in both the consultation and compensation policies, which have serious implications on the enjoyment of a whole range of economic, social and cultural rights including the right to adequate housing, the right to adequate food and the right to work.

Indeed, while many communities and groups have been consulted as part of the BTC Co.'s and BOTAS' Public Consultation and Disclosure Plan (PCDB), numerous inadequacies and failures have been reported, therefore limiting the possibility to take into account the concerns, fears and demands of the affected communities. Moreover, several rural and fishing communities that will be directly affected by the project have reportedly not been consulted at all, despite the fact that these communities were listed by BTC Co. and BOTAS as having been consulted. Overall, it should also be noted that the consultation did not take into account the situation of the minorities living in the region, including the Kurdish one, nor the current context prevailing throughout the country and in which any critique regarding a project sponsored by the government can result in prosecution for a crime against the State (3).

Concerning the issue of compensation, the BTC Co. has reportedly committed itself to pay compensation to anyone affected by the project, regardless of whether those affected hold a title to land. However, it is reported that BOTAS has repeatedly stated to villagers along the pipeline road that it will only compensate formally registered land owners. In some villages, this would result in only five or six land users being compensated out of a total of 50-60 affected. Other problems related to compensation notably include the absence of updated land registry; the risk that compensation, when provided, is below the full and market value of the land; inadequate information about compensation mechanisms; and lack of knowledge about possible recourses.

Overall, it should also be noted that under the Host Government Agreement (HGA), the Turkish Government granted to BP the power to refuse to implement any new environmental, social or any other law affecting the BTC pipeline that may be introduced in the next forty years, the lifetime of the HGA.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities in Turkey urging them to:

i. take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the communities leaving on the pipeline's route;

ii. guarantee that the implementation of the project is being carried out in full respect of human rights principles, including civil and political rights but also economic, social and cultural rights;

iii. postpone the implementation of the project until the afore-mentioned shortcomings concerning the processes of compensation and consultation have been resolved;

iv. guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards, in particular the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, along with General Comments No. 4 and No. 7 of the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights respectively on the right to adequate housing and forced evictions.

Please write to BP plc urging them to:

i. Implement principles 1 and 2 of the United Nations Global Compact to which BP plc is part and that stipulate that it should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights within its sphere of influence and make sure that it is not complicit in human rights abuses;

ii. guarantee that the implementation of the project is being carried out in full respect of human rights principles, including civil and political rights but also economic, social and cultural rights and does not lead -directly or indirectly- to human rights violations;

iii. postpone the implementation of the project until the afore-mentioned shortcomings concerning the processes of compensation and consultation have been resolved.

Please write to the World Bank urging them to:

i. make sure, when considering its support to this project, that it complies with the World Bank's Operational Policy 4.01 on Environmental Assessment; Operational Policy 4.04 on Natural Habitats; Operational Policy 4.12 on Involuntary Resettlement; Operational Directive 4.20 on Indigenous Peoples; and the International Finance Corporation's (IFC) manual on Doing Better Business through Effective Public Consultation and Disclosure.

ii. guarantee that its involvement in the project does not have a negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights in Turkey.


Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey, C/O Ambassador Murat Sungar, Mission permanente de la Turquie auprès de l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève, Chemin du Petit-Saconnex 28b, Case Postale 271, 1211 genève/Switzerland; Fax : ++41 22 734 08 59

John Browne, Chief Executive of BP p.l.c., BP p.l.c. International Headquarters, 1 St James's Square, London SW1Y 4PD/UK; Fax: +44 (0)20 7496 4630

BP Türkiye, BP Petrolleri A.S., Sarý Kanarya Sokak, No:14 Kozyatagi, 34742 Istanbul/Turkey; Fax: +90 216 571 2450

James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, The World Bank, 1818 H Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20433/USA; Fax: ++1 202 477-6391

Peter L. Woicke, Executive Vice-President, IFC, International Finance Corporation (IFC), 2121 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20433/USA

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

Geneva, March 26, 2003

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


(1) The fact-finding mission included representatives of the Corner House, the Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP), the Bar Human Rights Committee, Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale and Platform

(2)For further information, please see the preliminary report of the international fact-finding mission (Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale, Kurdish Human Rights Project, the Corner House, Ilisu Dam Campaign and Platform), Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey Pipeline Project: Turkey Section, August 2002

(3)Mr. Mahmut Vefa, the General Secretary of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, is currently facing trial and accused of "overtly insulting the moral integrity of the government and the military and the security forces" for having highlighted the impact of the the Ilisu Dam on surrounding populations.
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