A BP-led consortium is breaking international rules governing the human rights responsibilities of multinational companies in its operations on the controversial Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the UK Government ruled today.1
Environment and human rights groups, which had filed an official complaint against BP eight years ago, say the ruling puts the oil multinational in breach of its loan agreements – including a multi-million pound loan backed by UK taxpayers.
Villagers living along BP's flagship oil pipeline been struggled to hold the companies accountable for alleged human rights abuses associated with its development. The pipeline brings up to one million barrels of oil a day from the Caspian Sea, across Azerbaijan and Georgia, to Turkey from where supertankers ship it to Europe.2
The ruling follows the Complaint3 lodged under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises4 by six groups5 in April 2003. The UK government backed the pipeline in 2004 through its Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD).6
The ruling states that BP failed to investigate and respond to complaints from local people of intimidation by state security forces in Turkey guarding the pipeline. Local human rights defender Ferhat Kaya, for instance, has reported that he was detained and tortured by the paramilitary police for insisting on fair compensation.7 Villagers allege that they are routinely interrogated when they raise concerns over the pipeline.
The pipeline passes through an area of north-east Turkey with a substantial Kurdish minority who have been subject to state repression for decades. Since the pipeline's inception over a decade ago, human rights campaigners in Turkey and the UK have highlighted the risk of local people, particularly Kurdish minorities, being intimidated by state security forces. Today's ruling has found that, despite widespread awareness of this "heightened risk intimidation", BP failed adequately to respond to or investigate allegations of abuse that were brought to its attention.
The Complaint argued that such intimidation deterred local people from participating in BP's consultations about the pipeline's route and compensation negotiations for loss of land and livelihoods.
BP has consistently promoted the BTC pipeline as "world class" in its approach to human rights. According to its legally-binding commitment to comply with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (an international code of conduct for multinationals operating in the energy sector),8 BP is obliged to "consult regularly" with local communities about the impacts of pipeline security arrangements and should record and report credible allegations of abuse by security forces to the authorities.
The UK Government has now found that BP breached its undertaking and failed to adhere to the Voluntary Principles in the north-east region of Turkey by not responding adequately to allegations of intimidation and not investigating them.