The very first expert discussion which tackled the issue of environment and human rights: national and the perspective of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), took place on 22 September 2020 in Belgrade.
The event brought together around 35 judges, prosecutors, representatives of the Judicial Academy and bar associations and initiated a discussion about relevant standards and recent developments in the area of human rights and environment at the national and the European Court of Human Rights level with the purpose of strengthening climate justice in Serbia.
During the 3,5 hours long conversation, participants had the opportunity to hear more about the most relevant case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and overview of the recent environmental case law in other jurisdictions. They also touched upon national environmental protection with the special emphasis on civil, administrative and criminal aspect and expressed essential need for continuation of the discussion in view of the current environmental challenges.
Biljana Sladojevic-Milatovic, project manager within the Council of Europe's Human Rights National Implementation Division, started the discussion by pointing out that although the European Convention on Human Rights does not guarantee a substantive right to a healthy environment, ECtHR ruled in numerous cases concerning various forms of environmental risk and harm.
In his opening remarks Tobias Flessenkemper, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade noted that in its recent document on priorities for co-operation with the Council of Europe, EU Council acknowledged CoE role in helping to shape a well-adapted legal framework in Europe regarding environmental matters.
Judge of the Supreme Court of Cassation, Katarina Manojlovic—Andric, reminded participants of the Article 20 of the Serbian Constitution which guarantees court protection of the right to a healthy environment when other national bodies fail to provide it. Along with professor Mirjana Drenovak-Ivanovic and Deputy Prosecutor Branislava Vuckovic, she outlined the ongoing difficulties that the judiciary faces when dealing with environment related cases at the national level.
Natalia Kobylarz, Senior lawyer at the European Court of Human Rights, underlined that human rights are a tool for protecting the environment by „proxy“, by means of participatory rights which consist of right to information about environment, conditions and dangers, right to participate in decision making process and access to justice, to tribunal where one can challenge the decision of other national organs.
The expert discussion is organised within the action “Strengthening the effective legal remedies to human rights violations in Serbia”, implemented under the European Union and Council of Europe joint programme “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey 2019-2020”.