THE CASE OF DI SARNO AND OTHERS V. ITALY

A region polluted by non-collected waste, prolonged inability of the Italian authorities to ensure waste collection, treatment and disposal in the region of Campania and absence of a remedy in this regard: the violations of Article 8 and Article 13 of the European Convention of Human Rights  

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Between 11 February 1994 and 31 December 2009, a state of emergency was declared in the Campania region in Italy concerning the collection, treatment and disposal of waste. The waste crisis in the area was so dire that waste was piling up on the streets. As a result of decades of influence by organised crime, the waste management systems effectiveness was non-existent. The elevated number of wildfires started by the disposal of legal and illegal waste gave the area its infamous nickname “Terra dei Fuochi” (land of fires).   

These circumstances led to eighteen individuals who either lived or worked in the area to initiate Di Sarno and others v. Italy (Application No. 30765/08) before the European Court of Human Rights. The Court subsequently found that the Italian authorities violated Articles 8 and 13 of the ECHR due to their failure to ensure an effective waste management system for the residents of the municipality of Somma Vesuviana (part of the Metropolitan area of Naples) in Campania.  

The Italian authorities had failed in their substantive obligations to protect the right to home and private life of the residents. Even though the applicants had not complained of any medical problems and the court determined that their lives and health had not been in danger as a result of their exposure to waste, the Court found a violation of their right as enshrined in Article 8. The Court based this finding on the right to a healthy environment, concluding that "[t]he collection, treatment and disposal of waste" were "hazardous activities". Therefore, "the State had been under a duty to adopt reasonable and appropriate measures capable of safeguarding the right of those concerned to a healthy and protected environment". 

In terms of Article 13, the Court held that the violation is a result of the absence in the Italian legal system of effective remedies allowing the applicants to obtain redress for the damage sustained. The judgment became final on the 10th of April 2012 and, since then, the Committee of Ministers has been monitoring and examining the implementation of the ruling, namely at the 1259th meeting in June 2016, the 1348th meeting in June 2019 and at the 1411th meeting in September 2021. Most recently, the Italian authorities were urged by the Committee of Ministers to provide information regarding the progress achieved by the 15th of March 2022. The Committee has, furthermore, decided to resume its examination of the case at their Human Rights meeting in June of 2022.

 

Pursuant to Article 46 of the ECHR and Rule 9.2 of the Rules of the Committee of Ministers, Strali has submitted a communication regarding the execution of this judgment. Our submission aims to draw attention to the fact that Italy has to date failed to implement effective waste disposal systems in the affected areas. We also want to stress that the lacuna in the Italian domestic legal system for obtaining appropriate redress for similar cases persists. Furthermore, we would like to highlight how the measures discussed in the Action Report submitted by the Italian Government on the 1st of April 2022 are ineffective and do not properly and adequately address the violation of Article 8 nor Article 13 of the ECHR. Therefore, we asked the Committee of Ministers to reject the proposed Action Plan and to request the Italian authorities to implement the appropriate general measures. 

 

Di Sarno and others v. Italy is on the agenda of the next CM-DH meeting, to be held from 7th to 9th June 2022.  Strali recognizes the crucial role played by environmental law in contemporary society and has a dedicated department to enhance the protection of the environment through the enforcement of the rule of law. We will keep contributing to this case until we see the necessary results.  

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