Violation of the right to private life for pollution of soil and water near applicant’s house

In the case of Solyanik v. Russia (application no. 47987/15, 10.05.2022) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for home, private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the applicant’s complaint about pollution from a cemetery located very close to his house and adjacent plot of land. The cemetery has been gradually expanding in the direction of the applicant’s house since 1991. This led to local residents complaining to the local authorities, which ordered the closure of the cemetery in 1995. The authorities found that the cemetery’s maximum capacity had been reached and that any further burials would be in breach of health regulations. In 2010 the applicant and his neighbours complained to the consumer protection authorities that burials had resumed. These authorities subsequently issued the city’s burial service with at least three reprimands. Mr Solyanik brought the matter before the courts in 2013. The courts found that burials at the cemetery were being carried out in breach of health regulations and subsequently ordered the city council to create a health-protection zone around the cemetery by 31 December 2014. This order has not yet been enforced.

The Court noted in particular that the cemetery had gradually expanded towards the applicant’s property and that there were forensic reports finding that the soil and water on his land was dangerously contaminated. It therefore found that Article 8 was applicable in the case even though there was no evidence of actual damage to the applicant’s health. It concluded that the cemetery was operating in blatant breach of domestic law, despite reprimands by the consumer-protection authorities and a court order to create a 500-metre health-protection zone around it.

The Court therefore considered that there had been an interference with the applicant’s right to respect for his home and private and family life and that that interference had attained a sufficient degree of seriousness to trigger the application of Article 8 of the Convention. As to the question of whether the interference had been in accordance with law, the Court noted that the city’s burial service had disregarded the reprimands it had been issued with for failing to create a health-protection zone.

Furthermore, the court decision ordering the burial service and the city council to create a health-protection zone has still not been enforced. The Government has given no explanation for such delay. Nor have they provided any information as to whether alternative measures have been considered, such as relocating the applicant or carrying out decontamination work on his land. The Court concluded that the cemetery was being used in blatant breach of domestic health regulations, depriving the applicant of effective protection of his rights under Article 8.

Reference from the official website of the European Court of Human Rights