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Risk and the European Convention on Human Rights: Towards a New Approach

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The aim of this chapter is to provide an initial attempt at analysis of the place of risk within the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and, where appropriate, the Commission, focusing on the related issues of public concern and perception of risk and how the ECHR dispute bodies have addressed these. It will argue that, for quite some time, the Court has tended to adopt a particular, liberal conception of risk in which it stresses the right of applicants to be provided with information on risk to enable them to make effective choices. Historically, where public concerns in relation to particular risks are greater than those of scientific experts—nuclear radiation being the prime example in the case law—the Court has adopted a particularly restrictive approach, stressing the need for risk to be 'imminent' in order to engage the relevant Convention protections. However, more recently, there have been emerging but as yet still rather undeveloped signs of the Court adopting a more sensitive approach to risk. One possible explanation for this lies in the Court's growing awareness of and reference to the Aarhus Convention. What we have yet to see—because there has not yet been a recent, post-Aarhus example involving such facts—is a case where no imminent risk is evident. Nevertheless, the chapter concludes that the Court's old-style approach to public concern in such cases, in which it rode roughshod over rights to judicial review, is out of line with the third, access to justice limb of Aarhus.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 3, 2012


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