Kyrtatos v. Greece

Kyrtatos v. Greece, App. No. 41666/98, 40 Eur. H.R. Rep. 16 (2005).
Download Judgment: English
Country: Greece
Region: Europe
Year: 2003
Court: European Court of Human Rights
Health Topics: Environmental health
Human Rights: Right to due process/fair trial, Right to family life, Right to privacy
Tags: Environmental degradation

First and second applicants, both Greek nationals, were mother and son, respectively. They owned real property that included a swamp by the coast in Ayios Yiannis. During their ownership, the prefect of Cyclades redrew the boundaries of Ayios Yiannis on the basis of which the town-planning authority of Syros issued building permits for the area near their property. After two buildings were erected on the concerned property, the applicants, along with the Greek Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage, applied to the Supreme Administrative Court for judicial review of the prefect’s decisions and the building permits. The applicants argued that the State had a duty to preserve the natural environment of the swamp under Article 24 of the Greek Constitution, and therefore, the buildings should have been demolished. Although the Supreme Administrative Court agreed, issuing two decisions accordingly, a special committee of that Court found that the authorities had failed to enforce its decisions nearly two years later. In fact, the Government had continued to issue building permits in the area of concern.

The applicants complained to the European Commission of Human Rights that the failure of the Greek authorities to comply with the decisions of the Supreme Administrative Court and the length of the proceedings, totaling more than four years by that point, violated their right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a tribunal under Articles 6 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention). They further claimed that the development on the area of concern contributed to the destruction of their physical environment such that it violated their right to respect for private and family life under Article 8 of the Convention.

The European Court of Human Rights found no violation of the applicants’ right to respect for private and family life under Article 8 of the Convention. According to the Court, neither the interference with the conditions of animal life in the swamp, nor the disturbances coming from the neighbourhood as a result of the urban development, sufficiently impacted the applicants’ private and family life for purposes of a violation of Article 8.

However, the Court did find that the Greek authorities’ failure to enforce the two Supreme Administrative Court decisions for more than seven years violated the applicants’ rights to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a tribunal under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.

"52. (...) the Court notes that according to its established case-law, severe environmental pollution may affect individuals' well-being and prevent them from enjoying their homes in such a way as to affect their private and family life adversely, without, however, seriously endangering their health (see Lopez Ostra v. Spain, judgment of 9 December 1994, Series A no. 303-C, p. 54, § 51). Yet the crucial element which must be present in determining whether, in the circumstances of a case, environmental pollution has adversely affected one of the rights safeguarded by paragraph 1 of Article 8 is the existence of a harmful effect on a person's private or family sphere and not simply the general deterioration of the environment. Neither Article 8 nor any of the other Articles of the Convention are specifically designed to provide general protection of the environment as such; to that effect, other international instruments and domestic legislation are more pertinent in dealing with this particular aspect."