Mario Odoni

The Ilva Case Before the European Court of Human Rights: Par Ricochet Environmental Protection or Par Double Ricochet Public Health’s Protection?

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In the case of Cordella and others v. Italy, relying on art. 2 (right to life) and art. 8 (right to respect for private life) of ECHR, 180 applicants complained before the European Court of Human Rights that the State had not adopted appro­priate measures to protect their health and the environment, against the effects of toxic emissions from the Ilva steelworks in Taranto. In its judgment, the Court decided to consider the applicants’ complaints solely under art. 8 of ECHR. This choice seems to be open to criticism. The Strasbourg judges held that the national authorities had failed to strike the fair balance between, on the one hand, the applicants’ interest in not being subjected to severe environmental pollution that could affect their well-being and their private life and, on the other, the interests of society as a whole. In so doing, the Court chose to apply the well-known principles it has elaborated in its ‘environmental’ case-law, refusing to consider the situation under art. 2. But, in the Ilva case, the pre-eminent interest to be protected was people’s health and life, whose protection cannot be forced to pass through the path, already ‘tortuous’ in the ECHR system, to protect the environment, namely through the logic of protecting the individual’s private sphere. Protecting public health under art. 8 means to be satisfied with a protection even more indirect than that granted to the environment itself under the European Convention.


  • industrial emissions
  • public health
  • right to respect for private life
  • individual’
  • s well- being
  • right to life
  • environmental protection


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