The environmental disaster of the ILVA steel plant has also violated Italy’s human rights obligations

Press release
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April 13, 2018, Rome - Three human rights organisations have today published a report highlighting the Italian government’s lack of action on the ILVA scandal. The detrimental consequences of the activities of ILVA, the largest steel plant in Europe, on the environment were known to the Italian State since at least the 1990s. However, the adoption of preventive measures or sanctions were deliberately delayed, in flagrant violation of the international and European obligations on human rights ratified by Italy. Therefore, we urge the Italian government to adopt the necessary measures without delay to limit and contain the current environmental and human disaster caused by the ILVA steel factory.

The ILVA plant in Taranto, inaugurated in 1964, is the largest steel plant in Europe and one of the largest in the world, today employing about 11,000 employees and representing 75% of the gross domestic product of the Province of Taranto. In all these years of activity, ILVA has had a heavy impact on the environment and the health of the population of Taranto, as well as that of its employees.

The report underlines that serious violations committed by the company in the decades in which it has operated under private management have been widely documented and known to the authorities since at least the 1990s, and that the Italian State has negligently delayed the adoption of preventive and precautionary measures to limit the risks deriving from exposure to polluting emissions. This negligence is in violation of the obligations imposed by international and European law.

Moreover, there have been few and ineffective sanctions imposed in response to the conduct of the company and its managers. This is in spite of Italy’s adoption in 2016 of a National Plan for the implementation of the International Guiding Principles on Businesses and Human Rights.

“The gravity of the impact of ILVA on the population leaves no doubt about the violation of inalienable rights such as the right to life, to health and to live in a healthy environment, recognized not only by the Italian Constitution but also by international law and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”

Anton Giulio Lana, President of the Human Rights Forensic Union.

"The report published today underlines that economic and employment interests cannot be pursued at the expenses of the protection of fundamental rights. "A State governed by the rule of law that has ratified international human rights treaties and is part of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter has the duty and responsibility to put in place all appropriate measures to effectively protect these rights,"

Dan Van Raemndonck, Secretary General of FIDH.

It is therefore the duty of the Italian government to protect and respect human rights, as enshrined in international law, in the context of violations perpetrated by companies, and therefore to adopt without delay all the necessary measures to limit environmental damage related to ILVA’s production activities and to prevent further damage in the interests of the population of Taranto.

In the absence of any rapid intervention from the Italian authorities, FIDH and UFTDU will present a formal collective complaint to the European Committee for social rights of the Council of Europe in order to denounce the violations of the right to health and of the right to safety at work of the citizens of Taranto.

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