The case concerned the granting of permits to operate a gold mine in Ovacık, in the district of Bergama (Izmir). The applicants lived in Bergama and the surrounding villages.
The applicants alleged that, as a result of the Ovacık gold mine’s development and operations, they had suffered and continued to suffer the effects of environmental damage; specifically, these included the movement of people and noise pollution caused by the use of machinery and explosives.
The applicants alleged that both the national authorities’ decision to issue a permit to use a cyanidation operating process in a gold mine and the related decision-making process had given rise to a violation of their rights guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which provides:
“1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic company in the interests of national security, public safety or the well-being of the country, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
The Court pointed out that Article 8 applied to severe environmental pollution which could affect individuals’ well-being and prevent them from enjoying their homes in such a way as to affect their private and family life adversely, without, however, seriously endangering their health.
The same was true where the dangerous effects of an activity to which the individuals concerned were likely to be exposed had been determined as part of an environmental impact assessment procedure in such a way as to establish a sufficiently close link with private and family life for the purposes of Article 8 of the Convention. If this were not the case, the positive obligation on the State to take reasonable and appropriate measures to secure the applicant’s rights under paragraph 1 of Article 8 would be set at nought.
The Court concluded that Article 8 of the Convention was applicable and that the respondent State had not fulfilled its obligation to secure the applicants’ right to respect for their private and family life, in breach of Article 8. There has consequently been a violation of that provision.