Public Interest Environmental Litigation and the European Court of Human Rights: No Love at First Sight
In F. Lenzerini and A.F. Vrdoljak (eds.), International Law for Common Goods: Normative Perspectives on Human Rights, Culture and Nature (Hart Publishing, Forthcoming)
Posted: 21 Jun 2013 Last revised: 15 Oct 2013
Date Written: June 19, 2013
This paper considers the doctrines and principles that are available to the ECtHR in order to dismiss in limine those environmental claims that are regarded as brought in the name of the public interest or common good as such. Such principles emerge, in particular, from the victim requirement and associated prohibition of actio popularis under the ECHR system and from the tests of applicability of ECHR provisions as developed in the Court’s jurisprudence. The analysis focuses on the Court’s environmental decisions relating to the right to private life under Article 8 ECHR and the right to a fair trial under Article 6 ECHR. These are indeed the provisions which have generated the largest body of environmental jurisprudence and which provide the most interesting insights into the past, present and future of ECHR environmental litigation with a public interest/collective dimension.
Moreover, the study addresses the ECtHR jurisprudence relating to the standing of NGOs, as well as the purpose and scope of procedural environmental rights under the ECHR according to certain innovative, recent decisions of the Court. With a view to showing that the absolute inadmissibility of public interest environmental litigation under the ECHR system is largely a false myth, the paper draws attention to various environmental cases adjudicated by the ECtHR and denoted by a collective dimension, especially given the large number of individuals affected by the alleged ECHR violations and the breadth of the geographical area in question. Such cases show that individualized justice in environmental disputes is somehow fictitious, ie, suggested by the specific requirements of European human rights litigation, but out of tune with the nature of most environmental problems.
Keywords: public interest litigation, environmental human rights, European Court of Human Rights, Non Governmental Organizations, Aarhus Convention
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