Judgment 35648/10

Applicant type Natural person
Number of applicants 19
Country Italy
Application no. 35648/10 
Date 19/10/2023
Judges Marko Bošnjak, President,
 Alena Poláčková,
 Lətif Hüseynov,
 Péter Paczolay,
 Gilberto Felici,
 Erik Wennerström,
 Raffaele Sabato
Institution Court
Type Judgment
Outcome Art. 8 Violation
Reason Positive obligation
Type of privacy Private life; procedural privacy; locational privacy
Keywords Environmental polution
Facts of the caseThe main issues in the present case are whether (i) the authorities’ poor management of the waste collection, treatment and disposal services in the Campania region and (ii) their failure to take protective measures to minimise or eliminate the effects of pollution from a landfill site located between the municipalities of Caserta and San Nicola La Strada violated the applicants’ rights under Articles 2 and 8 of the Convention.
AnalysisApplicants rely on both Articles 2 and 8 ECHR, but the Court limits its assessment of the case to the latter provision.

The Court reiterates that under the Covention, there is no mechanism for an actio popularis. Applicants must be able to show harm to their private or family life and cannot submit a claim regarding the Conventionality of environmental polution as such. The proximity of the applicants’ homes to the sources of pollution is one of the factors taken into account by the Court. That is why in this case, the Court dismisses the application of a hand full of claimants.

It continues to reiterate that it is not for the ECtHR to rule in abstracto on the quality of the Campania waste collection, treatment and disposal services or on the adequacy of its waste treatment and disposal infrastructure, but only to ascertain in concreto what effect these activities had on the applicants’ right to respect for their home and private life under Article 8 of the Convention.

The Court finds a violation of Article 8 ECHR on muttiple accounts. As often, the Court, rather than taking a causal approach to harm, adopts a statistical approach. The Court considers that even though it cannot be said, owing to the lack of medical evidence, that the pollution from the waste management crisis necessarily caused damage to the applicants’ health, it is possible to establish, taking into account the official reports and available evidence, that living in the area marked by extensive exposure to waste in breach of the applicable safety standards made the applicants more vulnerable to various illnesses. It adds that severe environmental pollution may affect individuals’ well-being in such a way as to adversely affect their private life, without, however, seriously endangering their health.

Applicants also complain that the authorities had failed to take the requisite measures to protect their health and the environment and neglected to inform the people concerned of the risks of living in the area. The Court observes that the mere closure of the landfill site did not prevent the waste from continuing to harm the environment and endanger human health. Moreover, the procedure aimed at securing and cleaning up the area appears to have been rather inconclusive. Meanwhile, the concentration of a number of toxic substances in the groundwater near the landfill site led the judicial and administrative authorities to prohibit the use of groundwater and impose a ban on cultivation in the area, also by means of seizure orders on the wells. Thus, the fair balance to be struck between, on the one hand, the applicants’ interest in not suffering serious environmental harm which might affect their well-being and private life and, on the other, the interest of society as a whole, was upset in the present case.

Finally, the Court turns to the procedural requirements implicit in Article 8 ECHR and finds that the Italian authorities discharged their duty to inform the people concerned, including the applicants, of the potential risks to which they exposed themselves by continuing to live in Caserta and San Nicola La Strada. There has therefore been no violation of Article 8 of the Convention in this regard.
Other Article violation? No violation Article 2 ECHR, 6 ECHR, 13 ECHR and Article 1 P1.
Damage awarded (a) that the respondent State is to pay, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 5,000 (five thousand euros) to the applicants, jointly, plus any tax that may be chargeable to them, in respect of costs and expenses;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
Documents Judgment