The right to a healthy and safe environment in the case-law of the European court of human rights

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Although it seems unlikely, the environmental aspects of human rights law are not discussed as often as they should be in scientific proceedings of human rights. Nevertheless, a growing environmental caseload in international courts indicates their acknowledgement of the importance of this topic. Whilst the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) does not guarantee a specific right to a healthy and safe environment, the general standards deriving from it may also apply to environmental matters. The European Court of Human Rights regularly examines complaints in which individuals argue that a breach of their Convention rights is a result of adverse environmental factors. The ECHR does not itself express in an explicit manner the right to a healthy environment, but there is an indirect degree of protection inferred within the articles of the ECHR. The most frequent cases reflecting environmental issues and indirectly having an impact on claims relating to the environment protection are articles foreseeing the right to life (Article 2), the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8), the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions and property (Protocol i, Article 1), and the right to a fair hearing (Article 6). An important characteristic feature of the Court's "green" cases is the position that the state has a positive obligation to impose substantive environmental quality standards on private individuals to prevent them from interfering with individual rights of others. Sometimes environmental protection may be presumed as being a legitimate object justifying the limitations of individual rights and freedoms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-32
JournalInternal security
Publication statusPublished - 2013



  • Human rights
  • European Court of Human Rights

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