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Italy: Court ruling on toxic steelworks human rights complaint

Residents in areas affected by toxic emissions from the Ilva steel factory in Taranto Italy, did suffer violations of their human rights.

That is the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights today.

Strasbourg judges  held that the finding of a violation constituted in itself sufficient just satisfaction in respect of non-pecuniary damage and that Italy was to pay the applicants concerned 5,000 euros (EUR) (€10,000 in total), in respect of costs and expenses.

In its Chamber judgment1 in the case of Cordella and Others v. Italy (applications nos. 54414/13 and 54264/15) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and

a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention.

In this case, 180 applicants complained about the effects of toxic emissions from the Ilva steelworks in Taranto on the environment and on their health, and about the ineffectiveness of the domestic remedies.

The court considered that 19 applicants did not have victim status, since they did not live in one of the towns classified as being at high environmental risk: Taranto, Crispiano, Massafra, Montemesola and Statte.

The court found, in particular, that the persistence of a situation of environmental pollution endangered the health of the applicants and, more generally, that of the entire population living in the areas at risk.

It also held that the national authorities had failed to take all the necessary measures to provide effective protection of the applicants’ right to respect for their private life.

Lastly, the court considered that these applicants had not had available an effective remedy enabling them to raise with the national authorities their complaints concerning the fact that it was impossible to obtain measures to secure decontamination of the relevant areas.

Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments), that Court reiterated that it was for the Committee of Ministers to indicate to the Italian Government the measures that were to be taken to ensure that the court’s judgment was enforced, while specifying that the work to clean up the factory and the region affected by the environmental pollution was essential and urgent, and that the environmental plan approved by the national authorities, which set out the necessary measures and actions to ensure environmental and health protection for the population, ought to be implemented as rapidly as possible.

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