Turkish Court Halts Disputed Renovation Project in Historic Sulukule

13 June 2012

Budapest, Istanbul, 13 June 2012: An Istanbul court ruled yesterday in favour of the cancellation of the urban renovation project targeting Sulukule, the oldest Romani settlement in Europe, in an ERRC supported case. The 4th Administrative Court of Istanbul established that the Fatih Municipality’s Sulukule project is “not in the public interest”. There were three separate cases litigated by the Istanbul Chamber of Architects, the Istanbul Chamber of City Planners and the Sulukule Roma Association. The ERRC initiated and supported the Sulukule Roma Association’s case.

The Court found the Municipality’s project to be in violation of Law no. 5366 on the ”Preservation by Renovation and Utilisation by Revitalising of Deteriorated Immovable Historical and Cultural Properties” as well as UNESCO’s criteria on preservation of historical heritage.

The urban renewal project at Sulukule was first launched in 2005 and saw Romani families forced to sell their homes at low prices and move far from the city centre to make way for expensive luxury developments. Almost 3,500 Romani residents previously lived in Sulukule, and saw their homes demolished.

The text of the judgment has not yet been handed down, but according to the lawyers involved in the case and media reports, the Municipality can appeal the decision. However, within one month of the ruling being communicated Fatih Municipality should stop implementation of the current project, and develop and implement a new project in line with Court’s ruling. If the Municipality fails to implement the Court’s ruling, compensation claims can be pursued.

The ERRC has been actively involved in efforts to preserve Sulukule, reacting as soon as planning for the urban renovation project began. The ERRC met with Fatih Municipality officials and sent letters to authorities including the Prime Minister’s office, to remind them of Turkey’s obligations under domestic and international law. On 31 December 2007, the ERRC initiated and supported litigation by the Sulukule Roma Association before the Istanbul Administrative Court, requesting immediate suspension of the demolition campaign in Sulukule and cancellation of Fatih Municipality’s renovation project.  Since then, the homes of many Roma and the historic neighbourhood, a recognised a world heritage site, have been demolished. However the ERRC welcomes the decision from the Istanbul Court as vindicating the protests by Roma and the international community against the illegality of the Municipality’s action and opening the opportunity to redress the harms inflicted on affected Roma.

For more information, contact:

Sinan Gökçen
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre


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