Case Notes: Environmental Calamities and the Right to Life: State Omissions and Negligence under Scrutiny

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The case originated in an application against Turkey filed by Mr Öneryildiz, on his own behalf and on behalf of his deceased relatives. They were all living in an illegal dwelling built in a slum quarter of Ümraniye (Istanbul), when – on 28 April 1993 – a methane gas explosion in the adjacent refuse tip killed nine family members – along with another thirty people – and destroyed the dwelling. Since the early 1970s, the refuse site had operated in breach of the relevant technical standards; over the years, illegal dwellings were built around it, tolerated, and often encouraged, by the Turkish authorities. In 1991, a report initiated by the Ümraniye District Council warned of the major dangers generated by the tip for the slum inhabitants, as well as for the environment – particularly that of methane gas explosion. The mayor of Istanbul questioned the legality of this report and resisted, along with another mayor, the application for temporary court measures filed by the mayor of Ümraniye in order to prevent further use of the refuse site. While court proceedings were pending, the Ümraniye District Council decided to stop authorisations for waste disposal; a few days before the implementation of this measure, the accident occurred.

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