Brun, André v. France

Brun v. France, U.N. H.R. Comm., U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/ 88/D/1453/2006 (Nov. 23, 2006).
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Brun claimed a violation of Article 2 (right to remedy), Article 6 (right to life) and Article 17 (right to privacy) of the International Covenant Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Brun argued that Article 17 should be interpreted to include the right to live in a healthy environment. He had been sentenced for demonstrating against and destroying Genetically Modified Organisms.

Brun was amongst 200 people that demonstrated against open -field tests of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) crops that the French minister of Agriculture licensed a company to conduct, and destroyed the transgenic maize crop. They were summoned before the criminal court of Valance and charged with the joint destruction of the property of another. Brun received a suspended sentence which he contested on the grounds that he had acted out of necessity to protect the environment and the public’s health from the impacts of the GMOs open field trials and argued that the legitimacy of his action should be acknowledge by the court. He argued that given the lack of knowledge of the long term effects of GMOs, the ‘precautionary principle’ should be applied, citing article 17 of the ICCPR which was similar to the of the ICCPR, urging the Committee to apply a broad interpretation of the Article 17 (similar as that applied by the European Court of Human Rights in pollution cases) incorporating a right to live in a healthy environment.

He also claimed a violation of Article 25 (right to participation in public affairs) because the state failed to provide a forum for the active participation by citizens in environmental decisions of the public authorities which led to their protest and subsequent commission of the crime for which they were convicted.

The Committee held that Brun had failed to show that he was a victim of the breach of Article 6 and Article 17 of the ICCPR. Indeed, the facts of the case did not show that the growing of GMOs affected his right to life, to privacy, to family and home. Therefore the Committee found that he was not eligible for admissibility.

In addition, the Committee concluded that Article 25 of the ICCPR had not been violated as he had participated in the decision about GMOs trials through his elected representatives, therefore his entire claim was inadmissible.

"6.3 (...) Any person claiming to be a victim of a violation of a right protected by the Covenant must demonstrate either that a State party has by an act or omission already impaired the exercise of his right or that such impairment is imminent, basing his argument for example on legislation in force or on a judicial or administrative decision or practice. In the present case, the Committee notes that the author's arguments (see paragraphs 3.2 to 3.5) refer to the dangers allegedly stemming from the use of GMOs and observes that the facts of the case do not show that the position of the State party on the cultivation of transgenic plants in the open field represents, in respect of the author, an actual violation or an imminent threat of violation of his right to life and his right to privacy, family and home."

"6.4 The Committee notes the author's complaint under article 25 (a) of the Covenant to the effect that the State party denied him the right and the opportunity to participate in the conduct of public affairs with regard to the cultivation of transgenic plants in the open field. The Committee points out that citizens also take part in the conduct of public affairs by bringing their influence to bear through the public debate and the dialogue with their elected representatives, as well as through their capacity to form associations. In the present case the author participated in the public debate in France on the issue of the cultivation of transgenic plants in the open field; he did this through his elected representatives and through the activities of an association."