European Court of Human Rights finds Swiss government violated Convention rights in a landmark climate justice ruling

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Marc Willers KC and Richard Harvey, both of the Garden Court Chambers Environmental Law and Climate Justice Team, represent the Swiss Senior Women in Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland as part of an international legal team. Counsel are instructed by Greenpeace.

See full judgment here.

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Today, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered landmark rulings in two climate justice cases in which Garden Court counsel are instructed; that of Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland (application no. 53600/20) and Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and 32 Others (no. 39371/20) at a public hearing in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg.

In Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland (application no. 53600/20), the Court found several breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights by the Swiss Government. There had been a violation of Article 8 (a right to respect for private and family life) The Court also unanimously found a violation of Article 6-1 (access to court).

Therefore, the Court found that Switzerland had failed to comply with its positive obligations under the Convention to combat climate change, particularly in its failure to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Switzerland had not provided sufficient reasoning as to why they dismissed the Swiss Senior Climate Women's complaints.

The Swiss Senior Women stated that their country's inaction on climate change has violated their human rights. They are concerned about the consequences of global warming on their living conditions and health, as they are particularly vulnerable to the climate crisis because their health is at risk from heat waves. They stated that the Swiss authorities are not taking enough action to mitigate climate change. This was the first ever climate change case of its kind to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights, heard by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on 29 March 2023. 

The legal team is led by Cordelia Bähr and includes Marc Willers KC, Jessica Simor KC, Raphaël Mahaim, Martin Looser, Louise Fournier and Richard Harvey. Richard is a lawyer in Greenpeace International’s Legal Unit and is also a barrister at Garden Court Chambers. The case has received international press coverage, including BBC NewsThe GuardianCNNReutersThe Independent and Marc Willers KC appeared on BBC World Service to discuss the case.

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