Helena Lyng Blak
7 weeks ago

Historic Ruling: Swiss Climate Change is Human Rights Violation

The European Court of Human Rights rules that the Swiss government has violated the human rights of its citizens by not taking sufficient measures to stop or limit climate change.
Judges wooden gavel with EU flag in the background. Symbol for jurisdiction. Wooden gavel on european union flag
Yavdat / Shutterstock.com

In a historic ruling on Tuesday, April 9, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) determined that the Swiss government had violated the human rights of its citizens by failing to take adequate measures to combat climate change.

The case, 'Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland,' was initiated by a complaint from four women and the association KlimaSeniorinnen (Climate Seniors Association, in English). This association, as suggested by its name, consists of climate activists over the age of 64 residing in Switzerland.

“With our lawsuit we’re demanding that the federal authorities correct the course of Swiss climate policy because the current climate targets and measures are not sufficient to limit global warming to a safe level,” the association explains.

The complaint highlighted the dangers that heat waves, resulting from climate change, pose to the health of older women.

“Why female seniors? Because older women are particularly susceptible to intense and frequent heat waves,” says the association, further expanding; “Obviously, we are aware that older men, people with diseases as well as small children also suffer from heat waves and other climate effects. By focusing on the proven particular susceptibility of us older women we are simply enhancing our lawsuit’s chances of success which is ultimately good for everyone.”

The Swiss Courts Should Have Examined the Complaints, Court Rules

The Swiss courts had twice rejected the case before the association escalated it to the ECHR.

Consequently, the ECHR unanimously ruled that Switzerland violated Article 6 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees access to court.

According to the ECHR, the Swiss courts failed to provide convincing reasons for their decision to dismiss the need to evaluate the validity of the applicant association's complaints.

“They had failed to take into consideration the compelling scientific evidence concerning climate change and had not taken the complaints seriously,” said the ECHR in a press release issued by the Registrar of the Court.

Violation of Article 8

Most significantly, the ECHR's ruling on Article 8 stands out. With a vote of 16 to one, the Court determined that Switzerland had breached the article, which safeguards the right to respect for private and family life, home, and correspondence.

The Court concluded that Article 8 of the Convention includes the right of individuals to receive effective protection from state authorities against the profound negative effects of climate change on their lives, health, well-being, and quality of life.

In essence, according to this ruling, States have a duty to enact and implement laws, regulations, and measures that curtail and alleviate the impacts of climate change to avoid breaching the European Convention on Human Rights.

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