Regional Decisions: European Court

Zammit Maempel v. Malta

The European Court of Human Rights held that the Republic of Malta was entitled to strike a balance between affected individuals and the community as a whole with regards to enacting legislation and regulations concerning the vicinities in which fireworks were allowed to be set off and therefore did not violate Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which recognizes the right of European peoples to respect for their private lives and homes. While the Court recognized that the applicants have a substantial interest in living free of noise pollution, it determined that the State did not err in weighing that interest against the economic and cultural traditions of the Maltese as a whole, in shaping the regulatory policies regarding fireworks. The Court held that, absent a fundamental procedural flaw in governmental decision-making, there was no violation of Article 8.

Orlikowscy v. Poland

The European Court of Human Rights held that applicant’s complaint regarding butchery noise pollution did not establish the existence of an environmental hazard or pollution that exceeded regulatory safety levels and therefore could not find that the Republic of Poland had failed to take reasonable measures under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which recognizes the right to respect of private life and home. The Court determined that a complaint much reach a minimum level of severity to implicate Article 8, which was not the case here. However, the Court held that length of the domestic proceedings, spanning a 12 year period, violated Article 6(1) of the European Convention, which recognizes the right to a hearing tribunal within a reasonable period of time in matters of civil rights and obligations, and it awarded the applicant non-pecuniary damages.

Grimkovskaya v. Ukraine

The European Court of Human Rights held that Ukraine violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights by rerouting the Chisinau-Volgograd Motorway through the applicant’s residential street, which was unequipped to deal with high volumes of traffic, without providing proper environmental monitoring and management. Article 8 recognizes the right to respect for private life and home. The Court found that the Government failed to show that construction of the roadway was preceded by adequate environmental feasibility studies and followed by the implementation of a reasonable environmental management policy. The Court also found that, contrary to the provisions set forth in the Aarhus Convention (“Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters”), ratified by the Ukraine in 1999, it was not shown that the applicant was afforded a meaningful opportunity to contribute to the decision-making process.

Marchis and Others v. Romania

The European Court of Human Rights held that where applicants did not prove that pollution caused by a neighboring distillery was of such a degree or character as to cause any noxious effect on the applicants’ health or that of their families, the state of Romania could not be held to have violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which recognizes the right to respect for private life and home. Even assuming that the distiller did constitute an interference, the Court found that the distillery was only authorized to operate for thirty days a year, was only operable for three years, and had ceased its activities due to the intervention of Romanian authorities. Accordingly, the Court determined that any interference caused by the distillery during its brief operation failed to meet the level of severity necessary to implicate Article 8.

Dubetska and Others v. Ukraine

The European Court of Human Rights held that the Ukraine government violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to protect the applicants’ home and family lives from excessive pollution generated by two State-owned industrial facilities. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights recognizes the right of each person to respect for the privacy and enjoyment of their home and family lives. While the Court agreed with the State that the applicants presented no evidence establishing quantifiable harm, it reasoned that living in an area contaminated with pollution in excess of applicable safety standards poses an elevated risk of harm and the State was obligated to strike a fair balance between the interests of the affected and the community as a whole. Even considering the complexity of a cleanup and the lack of resources available to the State, the Court found that the State’s inability to relocate the applicants or find any solution over the lengthy period of 12 years constituted a violation of Article 8.

Dees v. Hungary

The applicant alleged that as a result of an increase in a toll on a private roadway near his home, heavy traffic on his street had greatly increased, and that the noise, pollution and smell from the traffic had made his home almost uninhabitable.  The European Court of Human Rights agreed that the Hungarian authorities’ failure to take measures to keep the noise level below statutory limits violated its obligations under Article 8.

Ivan Atanasov v. Bulgaria

The European Court of Human Rights held that Bulgaria did not violate Article 8 of the European Court of Human Rights by failing to regulate the disposal of industrial waste sludge containing heavy metal deposits into a gold mine tailings pond located a kilometer from the applicant’s residence, because the applicant failed to produce evidence of sufficiently adverse impact on applicant’s health or home life. The Court stated that fear of future negative environmental concerns without any actual harm or even short-term risk of harm do not meet the severity threshold for a violation of Article 8, which recognizes the right of European peoples to respect for their private lives and homes.

Mileva and Others v. Bulgaria

The European Court of Human Rights held Bulgaria in violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights for its failure to approach applicant’s nuisance claim regarding the unlawful operation of a computer club in the bottom floor of her flat with due diligence and proper consideration. Article 8 recognizes the right to respect for private lives and homes. While the Court recognized that the State subjected the club’s licensing permit to a number of conditions that would have alleviated the situation, “[r]ules intended to safeguard guaranteed rights serve little purpose if they are not properly enforced.” The Court found that the passiveness of State authorities prolonged the applicant’s discomfort and prevented the applicant from obtaining an effective remedy.

Oluic v. Croatia

The European Court of Human Rights held that Croatia violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human by failing to provide a quick remedy to the applicant’s claim of excessive noise disturbances emanating from a local bar. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights recognizes the right of European peoples to respect for their private lives and homes. The Court determined that a four year delay between the applicant’s lodging of an administrative claim and the Administrative Court’s decision rendered the proceedings ineffective and prolonged the applicant’s suffering. The Court held that the State’s failure to provide a timely remedy represented a breach of Article 8.

Galev and Others v. Bulgaria

The European Court of Human Rights held applicant’s claim, that Bulgaria violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to enforce regulations against odor and noise disturbances emanating from a dentist office adjacent to the applicant’s flat, inadmissible because the alleged nuisance did not meet the severity threshold necessary to trigger Article 8 protection. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights recognizes the right of European peoples to respect for their private lives and homes. The Court reasoned that, on its face, the smell and noise emitted from a dentist office in a residential building would be limited to office hours and would be unlikely to unduly affect residents. The Court held that, absent any evidence of a health hazard or specific adverse effect, the disturbance cannot be said to reach the threshold necessary to form the basis for an Article 8 claim.