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Human rights and the environment


Human rights and the environment have become increasingly interconnected. For this reason, the Steering Committee for Human Rights prepared a manual facilitating a better understanding of this relationship, while building on the relevant case-law of the European Court of Human Rights. With the approval of the Committee of Ministers, this manual was published in 2006. An up-date of the manual was done in 2011 in the light of the new relevant case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and of the decisions of the European Committee of Social Rights. This version contains, in addition to the previous one, an appendix with good national practices compiled on the basis of the contributions of several member states.

Whilst the European Convention on Human Rights does not guarantee a specific right to a healthy and sound environment, the general standards deriving from it may nonetheless also apply to environmental matters. The European Court of Human Rights regularly examines complaints on alleged breach of a right protected by the Convention, as a result of adverse environmental factors. Conversely, the protection of the environment may also be a legitimate aim for the authorities to justify interference with certain individual rights (for instance, the Court has established that the right to the peaceful enjoyment of one's possessions may be restricted if it is considered necessary for the protection of the environment).

The Court has identified in its case-law how the environment might affect the right to life (Art.2), the right to respect for private and family life as well as the home (Art.8), the right to receive and impart information and ideas (Art.10), the right to an effective remedy (Art.13) and the right to the peaceful enjoyment of one's possessions (Art.1 Protocol No.1). The European Committee of Social Rights has interpreted the right to protection of health under the European Social Charter (Article 11) as including a right to a healthy environment.

The Manuel on Human Rights and the Environment was republished in 2012.

  Link to the GT-DEV-ENV

(Working Group on Environment of the Committee of Experts for the Development of Human Rights)