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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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European Commission To Investigate Controversial BP Pipeline

Commission promises to undertake human rights investigation following legal challenge by campaigners

The European Union is to investigate alleged human rights abuses along the controversial BP-led Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline project [1].

The decision follows a complaint [2] by a coalition of human rights and environmental non-government organisations [3] alleging that the legal agreements for the project break Turkey's accession agreements for entry into the European Union. The NGO complaint was backed by sworn affidavits from Kurdish villagers affected by the project, detailing breaches of their human rights [4].

In a letter to the NGOs[5], the EC's Directorate of Enlargement states: "Turkey has undertaken to comply with the EU accession criteria, including the Copenhagen political criteria on democracy, the protection of human rights and of minority rights. For this reason, any human rights or national minority rights violations arising from the implementation of the above mentioned Pipeline Project would have to be seen in the context of the Copenhagen political criteria. The Commission will continue to follow closely the developments in Turkey surrounding this case and give an assessment of the human rights and minority rights situation in its regular report in November this year."

The NGOs have welcomed the EC's decision to assess the BTC project. "We are receiving new complaints daily from people along the pipeline who state that they have not been properly consulted by BP or compensated for the damage that will be caused to their livelihoods," says Kerim Yildiz of the Kurdish Human Rights Project. "It is clear that the Copenhagen criteria are being breached, both in the implementation of the project and through the legal agreements that underpin it. We will be making this case very strongly."

The NGOs are calling on the EC to take further action by freezing further pre-accession grants to Turkey until the legal agreements for the BTC pipeline are brought into line with Turkey's accession agreements. "The BTC project flies in the face of Turkey's accession agreements", says Nicholas Hildyard of The Corner House. "If the EC is serious about the accession process, it must act."

Campaigners are also pressing the World Bank, which is due to consider an application for funding the project at the end of October, to delay a decision until the EC has produced its report. "If the Bank is serious about human rights, it should wait until the EC pronounces its findings", says Anders Lustgarten of the Baku Ceyhan Campaign. "The Bank has an agreement with the EC to ensure that its aid to Turkey fosters Turkey's adoption of EU standards and laws. The Bank should live up to its commitments under this agreement."

The NGO complaint submitted to the European Commission argued that the legal agreements that underpin the project break EU law, as well as Turkey's obligations under the EU Accession Partnership. Under the agreements, Turkey exempts the pipeline consortium from all Turkish laws that might affect the project [6]. Turkey would also be obliged to compensate the consortium if new laws were introduced that affected the "Economic Equilibrium" or profitability of the project [7]. A legal opinion commissioned by the NGOs concluded that the agreements, "amount to a clear potential breach of what would be Turkey's EU law obligations, namely accepting the supremacy of Community Law."

For further information, contact:

Anke Stock, Kurdish Human Rights Project - 0207 405-3835
Nick Hildyard, The Corner House - 01258 473795 or 077737505
Anders Lustgarten, Baku Ceyhan Campaign - 07973164363
Phil Michaels, Friends of the Earth - 0207 566 1725
Philip Moser, barrister - 0207 643 5000


[1] The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, if built, would carry up to a million barrels of oil a day from the Caspian Sea through Georgia to Ceyhan on the Turkish Mediterranean coast. UK oil giant BP leads the project, and is seeking around $2 billion in public subsidy from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank and export credit agencies such as the UK's ECGD. The BTC project has come in for extensive criticism for its human rights, social and environmental implications: for more on the critiques.

[2] The letter sent to the Commission is available from The Kurdish Human Rights Project - Its official EC reference number for the case dossier is: 1897

[3] The groups include the Kurdish Human Rights Project, Friends of the Earth, PLATFORM, the Ilisu Dam Campaign and Cornerhouse.

[4] The affidavits are available from The Kurdish Human Rights Project.

[5] Letter from Martin Harvey, EC Enlargement Directorate, Turkey Team, available from The Kurdish Human Rights Project.

[6] The preamble of the Intergovernmental Agreement signed between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the three states through which the pipeline passes, states: ". . . the Intergovernmental Agreement shall become effective as law of the Republic of Turkey and (with respect to the subject matter thereof) prevailing over all other Turkish Law (other than the Constitution) and the terms of such agreement shall be the binding obligation of the Republic of Turkey under international law . . . "

[7] The HGA contains a 'stabilisation clause', where if anything threatens the "Economic Equilibrium" of the Project, then Turkey and other states shall (HGA, Art.7.2(xi)): "...take all action available to them to restore the Economic Equilibrium established under the Project Agreements if and to the extent the Economic Equilibrium is disrupted or negatively affected, directly or indirectly, as a result of any change in Turkish law (including any Turkish laws regarding taxes, health and safety and the environment). .this shall include the obligation to take all appropriate measures to resolve promptly by whatever means may be necessary, including by way of exemption, legislation, decree and/or other authoritative acts, any conflict or anomaly between any Project Agreement and ... Turkish law."