Yearbook of International Environmental Law - Vol. 7

By Günther Handl; Jutta Brunnée et al. | Go to book overview

Art. 8. In their view, where the health and safety of individuals are directly at stake, national authorities have a positive obligation under Art. 8 to provide relevant information to minimize the risk posed to the threatened inhabitants. Thus, through either Art. 8 or Art. 10, all but two members of the Commission found a duty to inform the public of environmental risks. The Commission report was not referred to the Court, but instead transmitted to the Committee of Ministers.


(3) National Developments

On the national level, a May 30, 1995, decision of the Guatemalan Ombudsman for Human Rights condemned illegal dumping by enterprises that polluted the soil in the town of San Agustin Acasaguastlan, El Progreso. The decision called the action a violation of social rights to the natural patrimony, environment, and reforestation and ordered remedial efforts by the city and companies. The decision was reported in the UN study on human rights in Guatemala and submitted to the UN Human Rights Commission (E/CN.4/1996/15). It marks the first time that a country report on human rights at the UN has included a section on the environment.

In the United States, the Federal District Court judge in the case of Aguinda v. Texaco, Inc. (No. 93 CIV 727 JSR) ordered the case dismissed on the ground of forum non conveniens on November 12, 1996. The case involves claims of environmental and human rights harm to indigenous peoples in the Oriente region of Ecuador. Plaintiffs moved for reconsideration. In addition, the government of Ecuador and Petroecuador moved to intervene on behalf of the plaintiffs, the first time a government has done so in a case brought pursuant to the Alien Tort Claim statute.

New constitutions continue to include the right to a safe and healthy environment, in some cases making it explicitly enforceable. Article 50 of the Constitution of Ukraine, which was adopted on June 28, 1996, states that "[e]very person has the right to a safe and healthy environment and to compensation for damages resulting from the violation of this right."

Dinah Shelton


2. Institutional Developments

(1) Introduction

The watchword for 1996 was relationships among conventions or, more broadly, relationships among international institutions, both intergovernmental organizations and those established by conventions. The category of intergovernmental organizations includes organs of the UN system and regional bodies outside the system, such as the Organization of African Unity

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