ECHR decision on climate case and judicial overreach

Court may have planted the seeds of its own destruction

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott

Sir, – The recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in respect of the case, brought by a group of elderly Swiss women, on climate change represents a serious long-term threat to the credibility and viability of the court (“Weak government climate policies ‘violate fundamental human rights’, European Court of Human Rights rules”, News, April 9th). The claimants argued that they had been failed by the Swiss government in not tackling climate change in a radical enough manner, thus violating the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The decision by the court is a long way distant from the fundamental principles espoused by the original drafters of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) who sought to establish basic human rights and equality for all citizens of the countries of Europe.

The convention and court played an important role in exposing the British government’s ill-treatment of the so-called “hooded men” during internment. It also played a major role in the Belfast Agreement. It is far too important an institution to be damaged, possibly fatally, by judicial overreach.

The court’s decision has already led to calls for withdrawal from the ECHR in Switzerland and in Britain and in the words of some of its critics, it may have planted the seeds of its own destruction. The court by its action has only strengthened those who are hostile to the original purposes of the ECHR.


Decisions on important issues like a State’s response to the challenges of climate change are best left up to the democratically elected governments. We need to safeguard the ECHR and the latest decision in the Swiss case certainly does not help. I hope our Government makes that clear. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 15.