Andrea Saccucci secures a landmark judgment before the European Court of Human Rights concerning severe environmental pollution in Taranto

Andrea Saccucci obtained a remarkable legal victory in the case Lina Ambrogi Melle and others v Italy (application No. 54264/15) before the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the severe environmental pollution caused by the largest steel plant in Europe, the Ilva of Taranto.

In a landmark judgment delivered on 24 January 2019, the European Court held, unanimously, that there has been a violation of the applicants’ right to respect for private and family life (Art. 8 ECHR) and a violation of their right to an effective remedy (Art. 13 ECHR).

The 130 applicants complained about the effects of toxic emissions from the Ilva steelwork in Taranto on the environment and on their health, and about the ineffectiveness of the domestic remedies.

Counsel argued that, by way of a number of decrees, the so-called “salva Ilva”, the Italian Government allowed the steel plant to continue production in open breach of the EU environmental legislation and of the decisions of the domestic courts. In addition, the Italian Government granted administrative and criminal immunity to the Commissioners and the future buyers of the plant. 

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.

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

Lastly, the Court specified 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.