Access information on Multilateral Environmental Agreements

Title
Oneryildiz v. Turkey
Party
European Union
Turkey
Type of document
International court
Date of text
November 30, 2004
Data source
InforMEA
Court name
European Court of Human Rights
Seat of court
Strasbourg
Justice(s)
Wildhaber, L.
Rozakis, C., L.
Costa, J.-P.
Ress, G.
Bratza, N.
Palm, E.
Loucaides, L.
Tuermen, R.
Tulkens, F.
Jungwiert, K.
Tsatsa-Nikolovska, M.
Greve, H., S.
Baka, A., B.
Ugrekhelidze, M.
Kovler, A.
Zagrebelsky, V.
Mularoni, A.
Reference number
48939/99
Abstract

The case originated in an application against the Republic of Turkey lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by two Turkish nationals.
Relying on Articles 2, 8 and 13 of the Convention and on Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, the applicants submitted that the national authorities were responsible for the deaths of their close relatives and for the destruction of their property as a result of a methane explosion on 28 April 1993 at a municipal rubbish tip in the slum quarter of Kazım Karabekir in Ümraniye (Istanbul).
The applicant was living in the slum quarter with twelve close relatives. On 28 April 1993 a methane explosion occurred at the site. Following a landslide caused by mounting pressure, the refuse erupted from the mountain of waste and engulfed some ten slum dwellings situated below it, including the one belonging to the applicant. Thirty-nine people died in the accident.
The Court emphasized, firstly, that its approach to the interpretation of Article 2 was guided by the idea that the object and purpose of the Convention as an instrument for the protection of individual human beings required its provisions to be interpreted and applied in such a way as to make its safeguards practical and effective.
In the instant case the complaint before the Court was that the national authorities did not do all that could have been expected of them to prevent the deaths of the applicant’s close relatives in the accident at the municipal rubbish tip, which was operated under the authorities’ control.
In this connection, the Court stressed that Article 2 did not solely concern deaths resulting from the use of force by agents of the State but also laid down a positive obligation on States to take appropriate steps to safeguard the lives of those within their jurisdiction.
The Court considered that this obligation had to be construed as applying in the context of any activity, whether public or not, in which the right to life could be at stake, and a fortiori in the case of industrial activities, which by their very nature were dangerous, such as the operation of waste-collection sites.
The Turkish authorities at several levels knew that there was a real and immediate risk to a number of persons living near the Ümraniye municipal rubbish tip. They consequently had a positive obligation under Article 2 of the Convention to take such preventive operational measures as were necessary to protect those individuals, especially as they themselves had set up the site and authorized its operation, which gave rise to the risk in question.
Thus, the Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 2 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, on account of the lack of appropriate steps to prevent the accidental death of nine of the applicant’s close relatives.