Campaigners Urge to Halt Controversial Pipeline

TURKEY–Campaigners have called for a moratorium on a controversial BP-led oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean. Visiting the Turkish section of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline–they uncovered a pattern of constant surveillance–evident human rights abuses and manifest lack of freedom of expression.

A consortium led by the UK oil giant BP is expected to request almost half of the $3.3 billion required to complete the BTC project from public sources–as what BP CEO Lord John Browne has called "free public money. A Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) representing an international NGO coalition which has been instrumental in raising concerns about BTC travelled the length of the Turkish section of the pipeline from Sivas to Posof.

It found evidence of detentions and arbitrary arrests and that tensions in the north-east region of Turkey have increased markedly over the last few months–including the proscription of local political parties. The FFM was itself detained twice in eastern Turkey and subjected to constant military harassment and intimidation.

The FFM was constantly followed by several vehicles wherever it went–making its task of interviewing local people affected by the BTC pipeline impossible. During a visit to a village near Ardahan–the FFM was stopped by the gendarmerie–the Turkish military police. Its passports were taken and it was detained for over an hour. No explanation was given for the detention–nor was any indication made of its likely duration.

"What the FFM has experienced in the course of its visit has given us some small indication of what local people in the Kars and Ardahan regions suffer daily," said Miriam Carrion of the Bar Human Rights Committee. "It makes a mockery of BP’s claims that there are no security problems along the Turkish section of the pipeline route. The obvious lack of freedom of expression calls the legitimacy of the whole process of consultation into serious question."

Because of constant surveillance by up to fifteen plainclothes security men and uniformed gendarmes–the FFM was unable to undertake further interviews. The FFM now has serious concerns as to the subsequent treatment of several of its interviewees–and will be making regular inquiries to check on their welfare.

"BP has promised us personally that the pipeline would not have a detrimental effect on the security situation in volatile areas of Turkey–yet everything we have seen indicates precisely the opposite. Repression of Kurds in the region is particularly pronounced–but the human rights of all in the region are not respected," said Anders Lustgarten of the Kurdish Human Rights Project.

In addition to observing and experiencing violations of human rights along the pipeline route–the FFM also chronicled a wide array of problems associated with the implementation of the BTC project. These include flaws in both the consultation and compensation policies–failures to implement those policies appropriately–worries over the BTC project agreemen’s and allegations of corruption in the awarding of pipeline sub-contracts.

"The litany of deficiencies in the BTC project when considered against the backdrop of the human rights violations we have seen and experienced leads us to conclude a moratorium on the project is essential," says Antonio Tricarico of the Rome-based Campaign to Reform the World Bank.

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