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Right to life


The right to life is enshrined in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It is regarded as the most important right because without respect for it all other rights would be devoid of meaning.


It is a right for which no derogation is permitted even in times of emergency that threaten the life of the nation. The right to life involves the prohibition of both the intentional and negligent taking of life, thus requiring compensation in cases in which death occurs (e.g. from the release of toxic products into the environment). It also involves positive obligations such as protecting populations against malnutrition and epidemics. Indeed, from the right to life and the individual’s right to have his or her life respected and protected by law, emerge the obligation for States to take positive measures to safeguard health and physical integrity, to prevent risk and to remedy existing pollution.
In EHP v. Canada the applicants alleged that there had been a violation of their right to life because of the storage of radioactive waste near their homes. Although the UN Human Rights Committee found that the case raised "serious issues with regard to the obligation of States parties to protect human life", the case was not admissible since local remedies had not been exhausted [1].
In the case of Oneryuíldiz v. Turkey, the Court ruled that the Turkish State had violated the applicant´s right to life enshrined in Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The applicant lived with his family in a slum which was located next to a rubbish tip. Nine members of the applicant´s family were killed because of a methane explosion from this rubbish tip. The Court stated that the Turkish authorities knew or should have known that there was a real and immediate risk to the lives of people living near the tip and that such authorities had an obligation under Article 2 of the Convention to take preventive measures to protect individuals living in that area. Even if the authorities had fulfilled the right to information this would not have been sufficient since they were expected to provide more practical measures to protect families from the dangers linked to the tip [2]
Back to TopSee also
Shelton, D. L., A Rights-based Approach to Conservation, in Greiber, T. (Ed) 2009, "Conservation with justice. A Rights-based Approach", IUCN, Gland, Switzerland p.15
Back to TopReferences
[1] Communication No. 67/1980, EHP v. Canada, 2 Selected Decisions of the Human Rights Committee (1990), p.20
[2] Oneryildiz v. Turkey, Eur.Ct.H.R. (GC, 30 November 2004)

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