Access to Justice in Environmental Matter under the Aarhus

Jerzy Jendrośka
Access to Justice in Environmental
Matters under the Aarhus Convention
Seminar on Access to Courts in
Environmental Law Matters
European Judicial Training Network
Lisbon 8-9 October 2013
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Aarhus Convention – origins and structure
Compliance mechanism
Access to justice in Aarhus Convention
Access to justice – compliance issues
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Aarhus Convention - origins
• Conceptual roots
– trend in international and Community law
• Rio Declaration – soft law
• Fragmented approaches in binding
agreements - need for comprehensive binding
• Political context
• Framework
– UN Economic Commission for Europe
– Environment for Europe Process
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UNECE Aarhus Convention
• Convention on Access to Information,
Public Participation in Decision-making and
Access to Justice in Environmental Matters
– 1998 - adopted and signed in Aarhus (Denmark)
– 2001 - entry into force
– 2003 - PRTR Protocol adopted and signed in Kiev
– 2005 - GMO Amendment adopted and signed in
Almaty (Kazakhstan)
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Role of the Aarhus Convention
• First binding international instrument to address
citizen’s environmental rights
• Benchmark and 'world' standard
• Aarhus Convention as a benchmark
• Provides links between environmental protection
– human rights
– democratization
– government accountability
• Aarhus Convention in EU
– part of the acquis
– Member States implement Aarhus via EU law
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Right to environment
• Principle 1 of the Stockholm Declaration –
right to environment acknowledged in ‘soft
• Principle 10 Rio Declaration silent on right
to environment
• Right to environment in Aarhus:
– binding legal instrument
– non-binding language
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Structure of the Convention
Objective – right to environment (art. 1)
Definitions (art. 2)
General provisions (art. 3)
Operative provisions – 3 pillars (art. 4-9)
Meeting of the Parties (art.10)
Compliance mechanism (art.15)
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3 pillars
• Access to information
– passive disclosure – Art. 4
– active disclosure – Art. 5
• Public participation
– decisions whether to permit specific activities „which may have a
significant effect on the environment” - art 6
– GMO decisions – Art. 6 bis
– plans/programs „relating to environment”– Art. 7
– policies „relating to environment” – Art. 7
– normative acts/legally binding rules „that may have a significant
effect on the environment” – Art. 8
• Access to justice
– reddress in case of abusing right to information - art.9.1
– reddress in case of abusing right to participate - art.9.2
– separate right to file a public interest law suit - art.9.3
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Scope of the Convention
• Main substantive elements
– Access to justice as a third pillar
– Public participation in strategic decisions
• Application to EU institutions
• Contentious issues:
– Public participation in GMO decisions
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Legislative techniques
„Shall” vs „should”
„Flexibility’ clauses
Enabling provisions
Role of preamble
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„Flexibility” clauses
shall endeavour
should strive
to the extent appropriate
where appropriate
within the framework of national legislation
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Adoption and entry into force
• Adopted and signed in Aarhus in 1998
• Entry into force in 2001
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• MOP I Lucca 2001
– compliance mechanism adopted
– GMO Guidelines
• MOP extra – Kiev 2003
– PRTR Protocol
• MOP II Almaty 2003
– GMO amendment
– PPFiF Guidelines
– decisions concerning compliance
• MOP III Riga 2008
• MOP IV Chisinau 2011
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Precedential features
• Rights–based approach
• Procedural rights as guarantees for a right
to environment
• Promotion of public participation in
international processes
• Open to non UNECE countries
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Direct effect of Aarhus Convention
• Direct effect at EU level
– Case C-240/09 Lesochranarske: art.9.3 has no direct
effect but standard test of direct effect applicable
• Direct effect in Parties
– no direct effect because of article 3.1 („Each Party shall
take the necesary legislative, regulatory and other
measures..”) – verdicts in Czech Republic and Poland
– each provision separately judged (ie. paragraphs 1,2,3
and 7 of Art.6 produce direct effect according to
Conseil d’Etat in France)
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Aarhus Convention – status and role in
• Aarhus Convention as a benchmark
• Aarhus Convention in EU
– part of the acquis
– Member States implement Aarhus via EU law
– European Commission and ECJ as enforcers
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Aarhus Compliance mechanism
• Compliance Committee
– nine independent members
– elected to serve in personal capacity
– regional balance
• Compliance procedure - triggers
Submission by Party about another Party
Submission by Party about itself
Referrals by secretariat
Communications by the public (60 hitherto)
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Monitoring compliance mechanism
• Implementation reports
• Compliance Committee
• Compliance procedure
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Compliance Committee
• Nine independent members (eight before
MoP-3 in 2008)
• Elected to serve in personal capacity
• Regional balance
• Nomination by MOP
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Compliance procedure
• Triggers
Submission by Party about another Party (1 hitherto)
Submission by Party about itself
Referrals by secretariat
Communications by the public (almost 100 hitherto)
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Case-load of Compliance Committee
• 93 communications from public; 1 submission
• 63 communications determined admissible
• • 42 sets of findings
• – 25 Non‐compliance
• – 16 No non‐compliance (including C/32 (EU) Part I)
• – 1 No conclusion
• • 2 cases closed; issues “resolved” domestically
• • 2+3 cases with summary proceedings procedure
• • 1 case of joint findings
• • ca 20 pending cases – (Summer 2013)
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Key issues
Template for complaint
Criteria for admissibility
Exhaustion of domestic remedies
– Hearing (possibility to be represented)
– Draft findings available for comments
– All documents publicly available
• Follow-up
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Types of non-compliance
• General failure by a Party to take the necessary
legislative, regulatory and other measures
timplement the Convention
• Failure of legislation, regulations, other
measures or jurisprudence to meet specific
Convention requirements
• Specific events, acts, omissions or situations
demonstrating a failure by public authorities or
courts to comply with (or enforce )the
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Legal effect
• Findings and recommendations of CC
– Findings
• compliance or non-compliance
– Recommendations
• steps to be taken Party concerned
• steps to be taken by MOP
• Adoption by MOP
• Measures
– Declaration of non-compliance
– Caution
– Suspension of rights
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• In relation to particular case
– no retro-active effect
– strategy to rectify situation to be adopted,
submitted to CC, and implemented
• As a reference point for
– implementing the Convention in legislation
– interpreting the Convention in particular cases
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Acces to Justice
• Art.9.1-3: redress in 3 situations
• Art.9.4: requirements concerning
– remedies
– procedures
• Art.9.5: practicalities
– information
– assistance
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Art.9.1,2 and 3: redress
• Art.9.1: redress in case of abusing right to
information (relation to Art.4)
• Art.9.2: redress in case of abusing right to
participate (relation to Art.6 and possibly
other provisions)
• Art.9.3: separate right to file a public interest
law suit (relation to Art.1)
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Art.9.4 - remedies
• Adequate
• Effective
• Include injunctive relief
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Art.9.4: review procedures
• Fair and equitable
• Timely
• Not prohibitively expensive
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Information and assistance – Art.9.5
• Information - relation to
– Art.3.5
– Art.4.7
– Art.5.7b)
• Assistance - relation to Art.3.2
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Redress - access to information
• Reasons:
– Request ignored
– Request wrongfully refused
– Request inadequately answered
– Request otherwise not dealt in accrdance with
Article 4 of the Convention
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Review procedures under art.9.1
• Administrative review
– Expeditious
– Free of charge or inexpensive
– Administrative appeal or ombudsman
• Court reviev
• Final decision
– Binding
– Reasons stated in writing
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Additional measures – best practice
• Damage caused by unlawful treatment of
request for information can be claimed at
court (Tajikistan)
• Unlawful refusal (in practice – lack of reaction)
of information may be sanctioned by criminal
sanctions (Poland)
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Art.9.2 - scope
• Reasons
– Substantive or procedural legality
– Decision, act or omission subject to Article 6
• Art..6.1.a) – activities in Annex I
• Art.6.1 b) -
– Other relevant provisions where so provided for
under national law
• Court review and (preliminary) administrative
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Art.9.2 - standing
• Members of the public concerned (art.2.5)
– affected or likely to be affected
– having an interest in environmental decision-making
– role of NGOs
• Criteria for standing in art.9.2
– Sufficient interest
– Impairment of a right
– criteria in national law consistent with the objective of
giving wide access to justice
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Right under art.9.3
• Role
– in art.9
– in the Convention
• Who – standing
• What - scope
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Art.9.3 - role
• In addition and without prejudice to the
review procedures under 9.1 and 9.2
• Relation to the right (art.1)
– of every person
– of present and future generations
– in an environment adequate to health and wellbeing
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Art.9.3 - standing
• Actio popularis ?
• Members of the public
– meeting the criteria (if any)
– laid down in national law
• Definition of the public (art.2.4)
– natural or legal persons
– including associations, organizations and groups
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Art 9.3 – scope
• To challenge acts or omissions
– by private persons or public authorities
– which contravene provisions of national law
relating to the environment
• Only enforcement action modelled on citizens
suit in USA or catch-all provision
• Review
– administrative or
– judicial
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Implementation - access to justice
• Often problem with jurisprudence and not legislation
• Overview of cases
– Art.9.1 – relatively rear (mostly timeliness)
– Art 9.2 • Lack of access to justice in individual cases
• Lack of effective access to justice
– Art.9.3 - general legislative failures
– Art. 9.2 and 3 - criteria for standing for NGOs and some
indiviidual members of the public (tenants)
– Art.9.4 • Costs
• Effective remedies
• Timeliness
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Art. 9.2 – key issues
• Problems in legislations based on „protection of
rights” with addressing
– procedural legality (ACC/31/ Germany)
– substantive legality (ACC/50/Czech Republic)
– general environmental issues (ACC/48/ Austria)
• Screening decisions and Art. 9 (ACC/50/Czech
Republic and (ACC/48/ Austria)
• „Sufficient” vs „substantial’ or „legal” interest
• Rights of tenants
• Standing vs scope of review
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Art.9.3 – landmark cases
• ACCC/11 Belgium: No non-compliance
• ACCC/18 Denmark: No non-compliance
• Conditional findings
• Attention to the “general picture” on access to
• Both cases frequently cited in subsequent
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Art.9.3 - key issues
• No “actio popularis” required
• National criteria, “if any”, must not effectively
bar all or almost all NGOs or other members
of the public from A2J
• Interpretation towards „catch-all” provision
• Administrative, civil and penal procedures
• Standing of NGOs in sectoral laws
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EU as „national law”
• „in the context of article 9, paragraph 3, also applicable
European Community law relating to the environment should
be considered to be part of the domestic, national law of a
member state” ACCC/C/2006/18 Denmark
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Actio popularis?
• „the Parties are not obliged to establish a
system of popular action (“actio popularis”) in
their national laws with the effect that anyone
can challenge any decision, act or omission
relating to the environment”
(ACCC/C/2006/18 Denmark)
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• „ On other the hand, the Parties may not take the
clause “where they meet the criteria, if any, laid
down in its national law” as an excuse for introducing
or maintaining so strict criteria that they effectively
bar all or almost all environmental organizations or
other members of the public from challenging act or
omissions that contravene national law relating to
the environment
• (ACCC/C/2006/18 Denmark)
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Art.9.4 and 9(5) – landmark cases
ACCC/23/27/33 (UK): Non-compliance
ACCC/36 (Spain): Non-compliance
Unfair allocation of costs
Quantum of costs: “despite the various measures
available to address prohibitive costs, taken
together they do not ensure that the costs
remain at a level which meets the requirements
under the Convention ”
• Consider cost system as a whole
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Access to Justice – harmonization of
laws in EU Member States
• Art.9.1 – Access to Information Directive
• Art.9.2
– EIA Directive (art.6.1 a)
– IED (IPPC) Directive ((art.6.1 a)
– Seveso III Directive ((art.6.1 a or b?)
• Art.9.3
– Directive 2004/35 on Environmental Liability
– draft Directive on Access to Justice
– Verdict in Case C-240/09 Lesochranarske:
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Access to Justice in relation to EU
• Provisions in the Treaties and restrictive
interpretation by ECJ
• Special procedure in the Aarhus Regulation
• Case ACCC/32 EC
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Access to Justice – standing at EU level
• ECJ interpretation of „directly and individually
concerned” scrutinised by ACC (ACCC/32/ EC)
– „if the jurisprudence of the EU Courts…were to continue, unless
fully compensated for by adequate administrative review
procedures, the Party concerned would fail to comply with article
9, paragraphs 3 and 4, of the Convention”
– „a new direction of the jurisprudence of the EU Courts should be
established in order to ensure compliance with the Convention”
• Preliminary ruling „neither in itself meet the
requirements of access to justice in article 9 of the
Convention nor compensate for the strict jurisprudence of
the EU Courts”
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