Turkish law on transformation of areas under disaster risk

April 24th, 2012

Members of the Turkish civil society contacted the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing to inform about a draft law currently under discussion in the Parliament that is generating some discussion and polemics in the country.

The draft deals with transformation of areas under disaster risks. What concerns the civil society is that the law and the prerogatives it creates may be used regardless of housing and shelter rights, as well as of property rights – especially when one considers the emergency expropriation mechanisms proposed.

In Turkey, a great part of its lands and population are under earthquake risk; a fact that preoccupies the government and the people. Measures to deal with this risk and with reconstruction efforts are necessary, indeed. The proponents of the law argue that it may save cities from earthquakes by renewal projects.

However, the civil society is worried about this law serving only developers’ interests: through expropriation and forced evictions, some prestigious places become available for investments and regeneration. Construction companies and firms will be very benefited by this law. Moreover, these evictions might affect not only middle income people but also the most vulnerable groups.

Here are some of the points raised by the civil society:

1)      An expert group, selected by public authorities, will visit areas and buildings under earthquake risk. The problem is there is no option of the analysis being made by independent experts

2)      Any building considered to be under risk by the authorities will be demolished. The civil society is worried the areas declared under threat will be the ones that attract the developers the most, despite of the real danger they pose. They base this concern on experiences by other laws, such as the Renewal Law 5366, which targeted Sulukule.

3)      Electricity, water and natural gas supplies will be cut off and all public services suspended in the areas declared at risk. This is a mechanism to force the eviction without guaranteeing these people will have other places to go.

4)      According to Article 5, property owners who make agreements with the authorities may be supplied with temporary housing and their rents may be funded. The problem is the word “may”, again, there is no effective guarantee. Moreover, from this point, we may interpret that those who don’t make an agreement and encounter forced evictions will not be offered any of the rights above.

5)      The first paragraph of Article 5 states the agreement with the inhabitants is the principle of this law. However, on the third paragraph, the law states that if these building are not demolished by the owners or the inhabitants in due time, the authorities will do it. To the civil society, this refutes the first part.

6)      The first paragraph of the following article states that it is necessary to have an agreement with two-thirds of the inhabitants to decide on assessment of property. But the second paragraph states that if this agreement is not achieved in 30 days after the notification, a relevant authority may start emergency expropriation procedures.

7)      According to the paragraph 9 of the Article 6, it is not possible to file a claim against the procedures; the only cases allowed to be opened are those related to financial matters. The civil society points out that this is not only a violation of housing rights but also of the right to file against unfair treatment.

8)      Article 8, third paragraph, states that those who resist demolishments and evictions will face charges according to Turkish Criminal Law. Therefore, there is a criminalization of advocacy of housing rights.

9)      The law is exempt from all other laws which may restrict its area of encompassment. The civil society considers that, with this, the law states by itself that it is a dictating law.

To read the full draft law, click here.

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