Controversial Turkish dam project to contravene human rights legislation
Eight NGOs advise that support for the controversial US$1.52 billion (£1 billion) Ilisu Dam project could be in breach of European Human Rights Act.
The Ilisu Dam Campaign and seven other international groups, have released a 200-page response to the environmental impact assessment report (EIAR) on the proposed Ilisu Dam in Turkey, which itself confirmed that an ancient city will be submerged and thousands of citizens displaced, and told the Turkish Government to meet certain criteria before the project can be approved (see related story). The UK government will decide whether to support the dam with US$200 million (£135 million) of export credit guarantees within the next month, based on the EIAR, public comments and expert advice. However, campaigners say they have strong reason to believe that UK support for Ilisu would be contravene the European Human Rights Act, as it would “bring about human rights violations in Turkey”.
“Support from the UK for the project runs contrary to the Act regarding citizens’ rights to information, receiving just treatment and on settlement,” the Ilisu Dam Campaign’s Kate Geary told edie. “The legal advice we have been given is that support by the UK Government could run contrary to Britain’s obligation under the Act,” she said, adding that she could not go into specific detail at this stage, in case of court action being necessary to stop the project.
A member of the legal team representing one of the NGOs involved, the Kurdish Human Rights Project told edie that as a signatory to European human rights legislation, Turkey also has a duty to comply. She said that Article 8 of the Act could be breached, as being forcibly resettled is contrary to the “right to quiet enjoyment of your property,” and that insufficient consultation about life-changing plans would also be in breach of the Act. “There are also questions surrounding the environmental impact assessment and more international rules on the environment and cultural heritage which could be contravened,” she said.
Among the findings of the response are: planners do not yet know exactly how many people will be affected and have not said where and how they will be resettled, but that previous official estimates put the number of those affected at 78,000 people, the majority of them Kurds; on resettlement issues alone, the dam would break 15 international guidelines on 75 counts; even with proposed water treatment plants, there is still a high risk that the dam will lead to the poisoning of the Tigris River, risking the
health of the local population; independent analysis of the EIAR’s own figures reveal that the dam threatens to cut off downstream water flows to Syria and Iraq in periods of drought; and each of the UK Government’s five self-imposed conditions for supporting the dam have still to be met.
The campaigners’ submission to five of the governments considering support for Ilisu, including the UK, US, Italy, Switzerland and Germany,covers the resettlement, cultural heritage, hydrological, and water quality impacts of the dam; and a critique of the environmental report’s
analysis of alternatives to the dam. The submission also includes a plea from Southeast Turkey’s Diyarbakir Bar Association to reject the dam.
“The environmental report, on which the government will base its decision, is so bad as to be embarrassing,” commented Nicholas Hildyard of the Ilisu Dam Campaign. “It is contradictory, incomplete, partial and in many places wildly inaccurate. In some areas – especially those that
touch on the security situation in the Ilisu region – we question whether the report has been censored by Turkish authorities. On the basis of this EIA, the UK government cannot – morally or legally– support this dam.”
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