Ardimento and Others v. Italy, No. 4642/17, ECtHR (First Section), 5 May 2022
On 5 May 2022, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on the case of Ardimento and others v. Italy, and on three other appeals on the same issue (Briganti and others v. Italy, no. 48820/19; Perelli and others v. Italy no. 45242/17; A.A. and others v. Italy, no. 37277/16).
The applicants complained, in all cases, of the inaction of the Italian State in putting in place measures to protect health and the environment from the extremely serious situation of degradation caused by the Ilva steel plant in Taranto.
The Strasbourg Court's decision is in line with several important precedents (in particular with the judgment Cordella and others v. Italy, nos. 54414/13 and 54264/15, which also concerns the Ilva case and which, three years later, has still not been enforced), holding that the Italian State's inaction constitutes a violation of Article 8 and Article 13 of the Convention.
Making up for the failure to expressly provide for the environment within the scope of the conventional provisions, the Strasbourg Court attributes to its protection the value of an essential condition for the enjoyment of other fundamental rights. In particular, the recognition of the right to a healthy environment translates into an essential instrument for the protection of the right to respect for private and family life under Article 8 of the ECHR. From this perspective, the carrying out of activities that cause environmental damage has been recognized as being able of affecting the well-being of the individual and harming his private and family life, even where his health is not directly endangered. From this perspective, it emerges the very close link between the individual and his environment and between his well-being and the protection of his habitat, such that the Contracting State has a duty to take action to prevent conduct that, by damaging the environment, infringes rights expressly recognized by the Convention.
In addition, the State's failure to exercise its powers in the face of polluting activities that are likely to disturb the health of individuals and that have already been found to be unlawful in a previous judgment constitutes a violation of the right to effective judicial protection under Article 13 ECHR. The Court, therefore, reaffirmed the necessity and urgency of carrying out the works to clean up the plant and the polluted areas, giving full and immediate implementation to the environmental plans prepared by the national authorities containing measures and actions needed to ensure the protection of the environment and the health of the population.
(Comment by Nadia Spadaro)