Turkey not adopting int’l convention blamed for Soma disaster

Turkey not having ratified a significant international convention on safety and health in mines stands as another form of negligence after the country’s deadliest mining disaster in Soma, a district of Manisa province.

More than 283 miners were killed and 80 injured in an explosion and fire that broke out at a coal mine in western Turkey on Tuesday, making it one of the world’s biggest mining accidents. Most of the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Rescuers have desperately been racing against time to reach the 150 miners still trapped underground.

After the death toll started to rise, claims emerged that negligence was a major cause of the disaster in the coal mine.

Among the significant number of claims of negligence, Turkey not ratifying the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) convention concerning safety and health in mines that dates back to 1995 and entered into force in 1998 has raised questions in the minds of many over whether Turkey carried out its duty and responsibilities regarding the applicable international law.

Chairman of the Mining Engineers Chamber, a Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects’ Chambers (TMMOB) affiliate, Ayhan Yüksel told Today’s Zaman Turkey has signed many agreements and conventions to date but he said the main problem is that these submissions have not entered into force.

“Turkey has signed many agreements and conventions. However, the important thing is not Turkey signing conventions but complying with international norms. Even if Turkey adopts the convention, the problem will continue to exist. Our many laws are in line with international norms; however, the fact that these norms have not been entered into force continues to be Turkey’s main problem,” Yüksel told Today’s Zaman.

In a statement released on Wednesday, ILO General Director Guy Ryder also drew attention to safety in mines. He said the tragedy in Soma is a reminder of the “paramount importance of occupational safety and health” in the mining sector. “The ILO stands ready to provide continued support to ensure the safety of workers in line with international standards and to prevent future accidents,” Ryder said in the statement.

The convention that Turkey has not yet adopted imposes important responsibilities on mining companies and governments. The convention has so far been signed by 28 countries around the world, including the United States, Russia, Germany, Armenia, Albania, Lebanon, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The convention stipulates employers to take all the necessary measures to eliminate or minimize the risks to safety and health in mines under their control; take measures and precautions appropriate to the nature of a mine operation to prevent, detect and combat the start and spread of fires and explosions; and ensure that when there is serious danger to the safety and health of workers, operations are stopped and workers are evacuated to a safe location.

The convention also grants miners the right to freely and without prejudice notify the authorities and mine management of unsafe conditions. They have the right to call for expedited inspections or investigations and to have full access to all information and data concerning mine health and safety. They also have the right to leave a mining operation in the event of serious risk. In addition, worker representation backing these rights is guaranteed.

Yüksel says the convention is not a random agreement but an ILO convention, underlining that it is necessary for Turkey to adopt the ILO convention in order to meet international standards.

“ILO norms are contemporary norms that should be adopted around the world. If this convention was adopted, the reports on Turkey’s job security would be much more optimistic,” Yüksel stated.

Turkey has had the highest number of deadly mining accidents over the past three years, ahead of China, according to data from ILO. Over the past 31 years, 14 mining accidents have occurred in Turkey, with the latest one being the mine blast and fire in Soma, which has killed at least 238 miners.

Mining accidents are common in Turkey, which is plagued by poor safety conditions. Coal mining is responsible for more fatalities than the production of any other energy source due to poor working conditions in producing countries such as Turkey, China, South Africa, Indonesia and Colombia.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar 39 yıllık gazeteci. Mesleğe İsveç Radyosu'nda muhabir olarak başladı, oradan TV ve yazılı basına geçti. Sırasıyla Cumhuriyet İsveç muhabirliği, BBC Türkçe Servisi'nde yapımcı-sunuculuk, Yeni Yüzyıl'da dış haberler servis şefliği, Milliyet'te editörlük yaptı. 1999 yılı başında Milliyet Okur Temsilcisi olarak, medyada kurumsal bir 'özdenetim' yapısı olan ombudsmanlığı Türkiye'ye tanıtan ve ilk uygulayan kişi oldu. Bu görevi Milliyet ardından Sabah'ta da sürdürdü. Toplam 15 yıl süren bu görevi nedeniyle dünyanın en kıdemli ve 'uzman' ombudsmanlarından biri sayılıyor. Baydar, merkezi ABD'de bulunan Dünya Medya Ombudsmanları Örgütü'nde (ONO) başkanlık ve yürütme kurulu üyeliğini de üstlendi. Türkiye'ye döndüğü 1990'lı yılların ortasından bu yana çeşitli TV kanallarında başta Soru-Cevap olmak üzere çok sayıda analiz-tartışma programını hazırlayıp sunmuş olan Baydar, düzenli olarak Süddeutsche Zeitung ve The Arab Weekly için yorumlar yazmakta. Baydar, Ocak 2014'te bir grup meslektaşı ile beraber medya bağımsızlığı ve özgürlüğü alanında çalışmalar yürütmek üzere Bağımsız Gazetecilik Platformu'nun (P24) kurucu üyeleri arasında yer aldı. 2000 yılında 'Okur Temsilcisi' olarak yaptığı çalışmalar nedeniyle Çağdaş Gazeteciler Derneği'nin (ÇGD) Özel Ödülü'ne layık bulunan Baydar, 2014 yılında da, Avrupa'nın 'Pulitzer'i sayılan Avrupa Basın Ödülü'nü (EPP) 'meslekte mükemmeliyet' tanımlamasıyla aldı. 2004'te Michigan Üniversitesi'nde Knight-Wallace Araştırma Bursu ile 'Ortadoğu, demokrasi ve medya' konulu mesleki çalışmalar yapan Baydar, 2014 sonbaharında da Harvard Üniversitesi'ne bağlı Kennedy School'da 'Shorenstein Fellow' olarak Türkiye medyasında sansürün ve mali yozlaşmanın yayılmasını ele alan uzun bir rapor yayınladı. Baydar ayrıca Guardian, El Pais, New York Times gibi gazetelere de aralıklı olarak yorum ve analiz makaleleri yazıyor.
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