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Better access to justice after environmental group’s legal challenge was unfairly rejected

Л’Эраблиер А.С.Б.Л. против Бельгии  | 2009 г.

Better access to justice after environmental group’s legal challenge was unfairly rejected

It is of great satifisfaction for us to think that this ruling in our favour might encourage other citizens who face injustice, in other complicated situations, to persevere against all the odds.

Anne-Marie Wiot, Erablière’s manager - © Photo Anne-Marie Wiot

Background 

A local environmental group challenged a decision to grant planning permission to a waste disposal company to expand a landfill site. 

The group made a formal application to the Belgian Conseil d’État asking for the decision to be overturned, based on laws relating to the environmental impact of certain public projects and waste management.  

The Conseil d’État refused to accept the group’s request because they had not included a statement of facts in their application. 

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court found that the environmental group had been denied proper access to a court, which breached their right to a fair trial.

It noted that the group had attached the decision granting planning permission, which gave a detailed statement of the facts, to their application. 

The court therefore found that the Conseil d’Etat’s decision was unfair because it had taken an excessively formal approach to handling the application.

Follow-up 

The decision led the Conseil d’État to take a less formal approach to handling complaints, strengthening applicants’ right of access to a court.