Journal of Human Rights and the Environment

International human rights courts and environmental human rights: re-imagining adjudicative paradigms

Evadne Grant * *

Keywords: environmental adjudication, environmental human rights, regional human rights courts


The importance of the interaction between environmental protection and diverse areas of law is widely recognized and reflected in the jurisprudence of a variety of judicial bodies, including human rights tribunals. However, there are a number of constraints in dealing with environmental claims in human rights tribunals, in particular the individualistic approach to rights and the related disconnected treatment of rights that often characterize human rights adjudication. This article assesses the extent to which the problems of individualism and disconnection are manifested in the jurisprudence of the European, African and Inter-American regional human rights tribunals and finds evidence of a variety of approaches which recognize the impact of environmental harm on a wide range of rights and on whole communities rather than isolated individuals. It argues that individualism and disconnection are not inherent features of human rights or human rights adjudication and that there is significant scope for human rights courts to develop approaches to adjudicating environmental human rights that recognize and address the collective impact of environmental destruction on a wide range of human rights.

Author Notes

I would like to thank Anna Grear and Louis Kotzé for their generous comments and critique.

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