ECHR Environment Cases
Applications No. 3675/04 and 23264/04, Flamenbaum a.o. v France (13.1.2013) (available only in French)
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) again dealt with a case concerning the extension of a runway, this time at the Deauville Airport, France. The applicants were house owners in the proximity of the airport arguing that this extension resulted into sound disturbance which violated art.8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), i.e. the right to respect for private and family life, and to a market value decline of their properties in violation of art.1 Protocol No.1 ECHR on protection of property.
In regard to art.8, the ECHR concluded that the runway extension project was subject to numerous detailed impact assessment procedures with public participation. Also, the interested public had had reasonable access to justice for remedies and compensation. As for the argument that the decision-making process was fragmented and the public had had no chance to examine the overall project, the ECHR found that although the Government has to respect individual interests, it can choose “the ways and means of complying with that obligation”. Having regard to the measures taken to limit the impact of the noise disturbance on local residents, the Court decided that a fair balance was struck between the competing interests of the local residents on the one hand and the region’s economic well-being on the other hand. No violation of art. 8 ECHR was found.
As for art.1 Protocol No. 1, the ECHR explained that the article does not in principle vouch for the right to keep property in pleasant environment. The applicants argued that due to the runway extension, the value of their properties declined. Despite the ECHR’s request for further clarifications to the real estate estimation report, the applicants failed to provide the proper information. Under these circumstances, the ECHR concluded that the applicants failed to prove that the airport runaway extension constituted any effect to their properties’ value and therefore no violation of art.1 Protocol No.1 ECHR occurred.
- “Extension of main runway at Deauville Airport does not amount to violation of right to respect for private and family life of complainants or of right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions”, Press Release ECtHR, 13.01.2013
- ECtHR 02.10.2001, Hatton a.o. v United Kingdom (case regarding expansion of Heathrow airport
The applicants in this case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) are two Ukrainian families who had their residences in close proximity to a coal mine and a coal processing factory in the Ukraine as well as two spoil heaps created by these industrial facilities. They claimed that their right to respect for private and family life (Art. 8 ECHR) was violated on account of prolonged environmental pollution emanating from a state-owned mine and factory.
The court dismissed an objection made by the Government of Ukraine that the applicants did not exhaust all domestic judicial remedies (required for the admission of a case to the ECtHR). It then found that Art. 8 was applicable, noting that it is often impossible to quantify the effects of industrial pollution in each individual case and that it is hard to distinguish the effects of environmental hazards from the influence of other relevant factors, such as age, profession or personal lifestyle. It consequently found that, through failing to relocate the applicants or put in place a functioning policy dealing with environmental risks, the Ukraine did not strike a fair balance between the interests of the individuals concerned and the society as a whole. Its actions could therefore not be justified under Art. 8(2) of the Convention. The Court awarded EUR 32.000 and EUR 33.000 in non-pecuniary damages to the families respectively on the basis of the Art. 8 violation.
The applicants, two Polish nationals, relying on Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, filed a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against the Republic of Poland complaining about the excessive length of administrative proceedings related to the functioning of a craftsmen’s cooperative established next to the their home in 1978. The applicants further alleged that due to the cooperative’s continuous activities they have been subjected to serious noise and pollution for a number of years, which resulted serious and long-term health problems. On 21 July 2009, the ECtHR held that there has been a violation of the applicants’ right to a fair hearing, since the length of the administrative proceedings was excessive and failed to meet the “reasonable time” requirement. With regard to the applicants’ right to respect for private and family life, the Court reiterated that even if there is no explicit right in the Convention to a clean and quiet environment, Article 8of the Convention may apply in environmental cases, regardless of whether the pollution is directly caused by the State or the State's responsibility arises from failure to regulate private-sector activities properly. Nevertheless, the Court concluded that it has not been established that the noise levels considered in the present case are so serious as to reach the high threshold established in cases dealing with environmental issues. Therefore, the Court held that Article 8 of the Convention had not been violated.
Application No 67021/01, Tatar v. Romania (27.1.2009) (available only in French)
On 27 January 2009 the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been aviolation of the right to respect for private and family lifeon account of the Romanian authorities’ failure to protect the applicants who lived in the vicinity of the Baia Mare Aurul gold mine. The case concerned an environmental accident occurring at the site in January 2000. A United Nations study reported that a dam had breached, releasing about 100,000 m3 of cyanide-contaminated tailings water into the environment. The report stated that the company operating the gold mine had not halted its operations. The applicants complained under article 2 of the Convention (right to life) that the activities carried out by the company put their lives in danger, and that the authorities had failed to take any action. The Court observed that where pollution or noise interfered with a person’s well-being, a claim could be brought under article 8 (right to respect for private and family life)and that the existence of a serious and material risk for the applicants’ health and well-being entailed a duty on the part of the State to assess the risks, both at the time it granted the operating permit and subsequent to the accident, and to take the appropriate measures.
The European Court of Human Rights was asked to that the Russian government had failed to fulfill its obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), namely to protect the right to life of people under its jurisdiction. The case concerned the events of 18-25 July 2000, when a mudslide led to a catastrophe in the Russian town Tyrnauz: it threatened the applicants’ lives and caused eight deaths, among them the husband’s of one of the applicants. The Court found that the Russian government breached Article 2 ECHR, both in its substance and in its procedural aspects. First, the authorities omitted to implement land-planning and emergency relief policies despite the fact that the area of Tyrnauz was particularly vulnerable for mudslides, thus exposing the residents to “mortal risk”. Second, the Court determined that the lack of any state investigation or examination of the accident also constituted a violation of Article 2 ECHR. The decision was so obvious that the Russian national judge did not opt for his right not to act up on it.