The Human Rights Committee, Environmental Protection and the Right to Life

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In its August 2019 decision in Portillo Cáceres v Paraguay, the Human Rights Committee recognised, for the first time, the existence of a connection between environmental protection and the right to life with dignity. This is not only a landmark decision for the Committee but also represents the consolidation of a body of case law and practice from the three regional human rights courts and other UN human rights bodies which has developed over the last quarter of a century. It also shows the potential of two important and widely debated paragraphs in the newly adopted General Comment No. 36 on the Right to Life, which describe environmental degradation as both an enabler of threats and a direct threat to the right to life. Such potential has been confirmed in another landmark decision of the HRC-Teitiota v New Zealand, relating to climate change as threat to life. This article draws on Portillo Cáceres v Paraguay and Teitiota v New Zealand to analyse this wider field of practice in order to clarify the connection between the right to life and environmental protection, as recognised by the Committee, and considers its potential impact on future litigation.




Le Moli, G. (2020). The Human Rights Committee, Environmental Protection and the Right to Life. International and Comparative Law Quarterly. Cambridge University Press.

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