Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Door Gevaarlijke Gekken Omringd III

The world has gone mad once again. In a 6-1 ruling, the second chamber of the European Court for Human Rights held yesterday that the 1994-2009 garbage collection mess in Campania, Italy was a violation of citizens' rights under art. 8 ECHR. I can see how a serious health risk might be a violation of art. 2 or 3, but art. 8? Just copy/pasting the summary of the court's judgement (the full judgement is only available in French for now) makes me shudder:
The Court noted that the applicants had not complained of any medical disorders linked to their exposure to the waste, and that the scientific studies produced by the parties had made conflicting findings as to the existence of a link between exposure to waste and an increased risk of cancer or congenital defects. Although the Court of Justice of the European Union, which had ruled on the issue of waste disposal in Campania, had taken the view that a significant accumulation of waste on public roads or in temporary storage sites was liable to expose the population to a health risk (link), the applicants’ lives and health had not been in danger.

The collection, treatment and disposal of waste were hazardous activities; as such, the State had been under a duty to adopt reasonable and appropriate measures capable of safeguarding the right of those concerned to a healthy and protected environment.

It was true that the Italian State, from May 2008 onwards, had adopted several measures and launched a series of initiatives which made it possible to lift the state of emergency in Campania on 31 December 2009. However, the Court could not accept the Italian Government’s argument that that state of crisis was attributable to force majeure. Even if one took the view, as the Government did, that the acute phase of the crisis had lasted only five months – from the end of 2007 until May 2008 – the fact remained that the Italian authorities had for a lengthy period been unable to ensure the proper functioning of the waste collection, treatment and disposal service, resulting in an infringement of the applicants’ right to respect for their private lives and their homes. The Court therefore held that there had been a violation of Article 8.
So now garbage collection is a human rights issue. Yet another step towards the constitutionalisation of everything. (Following, for example, last year's unfortunate CJEU venture into car insurance and its somewhat more appealing foray into internet privacy in Scarlet Extended v. SABAM.)

Cf. Verfassungsblog, where Max Steinbeis is surprised that the plaintiffs in this case had standing. Also a very good point.

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