ILVA scandal: following the ECtHR decision, Italy must take immediate action to end the environmental crisis

Press release
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Today the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) published a landmark decision on the Cordella and Others v. Italy case recognizing that Italy failed to protect the right to private life and to an effective remedy of its citizens who are dramatically affected by the extreme pollution levels caused by ILVA’s activities in the city of Taranto. The decision also stresses that victims were not able to get redress for these violations since the Italian government authorised the activities to continue despite several judicial decisions. The Court calls on Italy to implement, as soon as possible, all the necessary measures to ensure environmental and health protection for the population.

“The activities of ILVA have a terrible impact on the local population and environment. Today, the European Court of Human Rights put an end to years of impunity that benefited ILVA. Now it’s time for the Italian government to remedy the public health crisis and to fulfill the right to live in a healthy environment in Taranto."

Maddalena Neglia, head of the Globalisation and Human Rights desk at the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

In April 2018 FIDH, its member organization Unione Forense Per La Tutela Dei Diritti Umani (UFTDU) and partner organisations Peacelink and HRIC published "The Environmental Disaster and Human Rights Violations of the ILVA steel plant in Italy", which denounced the environmental and health crisis and the government’s lack of action in the ILVA scandal. One of several alarming studies showed that children living in areas at risk of pollution are 54% more likely to develop cancer than the regional average, men 30% more likely, women 20%. [1] These studies were also used by the Court as a basis for its decision.

The detrimental consequences of the activities of ILVA on the environment were known to the Italian State since at least the 1990s. However, the adoption of preventive measures or sanctions was deliberately delayed, in flagrant violation of Italy’s European and international human rights obligations. The organizations called on the government adopt urgent measures to limit and contain the current human and environmental disaster caused by the ILVA steel factory.

"This decision of the Court restores dignity to Taranto and its citizens, especially those living in the most affected neighborhood of Tamburi. Now, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will monitor that the Italian government urgently start the decontamination of the plant and neighboring territories affected by environmental pollution.
Today Strasbourg strongly states that business must comply with fundamental human rights, there are no possible exceptions!" concluded the lawyer Prof. Anton Giulio Lana, president of UFTDU.

The impact of the public health crisis on the children living in Taranto was denounced once again by UNICEF and Peacelink in November when the spokesperson for UNICEF Italy declared that the organisation will ’adopt’ Taranto’ children.

The European Court of Human Rights not often accepts cases and passes judgments in human rights cases related to business activities, this is therefore an important decision for the jurisprudence of the Court on the matter. Following this decision, the Italian government has the obligation to address the consequences of ILVA activities and to prevent future damages. But this decision also sends a strong message against the impunity businesses often benefit from in such cases throughout the world. It also shows the need for further action at national and international level to protect human rights from corporate violations.

Press contacts
Maddalena Neglia, FIDH (English-Italian-French) +31 6 47 80 64 80
Maria Isabel Cubides, FIDH (English-Spanish-French) +33 6 98 37 58 47
Gioia Silvagni, UFTDU (Italian, English) +39 340 9275277
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