Development of the concept of environmental human rights in the practice of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Available in Russian

Price 150 Rub.

Authors: Alexander Solntsev, Anastasia Otrashevskaya

Keywords: advisory opinion of a court; Inter-American Court of Human Rights; international environmental law; protection of human rights


The current practice of international courts testifies to the close correlation of human rights and environmental protection. The “greening” of human rights contributes to improving the health and well-being of people around the world and the prevention of possible global negative consequences. This study analyzes existing international laws and the developing judicial practice regarding the defense of ecological rights and the interaction of separate categories of human rights including the rights to life, food, water, and a favorable environment. In the framework of this study, we will examine how this process takes place in the inter-American system for the protection of human rights, paying special attention to Advisory Opinion OC-23/17 issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on November 15, 2017 (published on February 8, 2018). The revolutionary approach of the Court’s opinion has stimulated an active discussion in the international community. This Advisory Opinion recognized the right to a healthy environment as an autonomous right, one not directly formulated by the American Convention on Human Rights of 1969 (Pact of San Jose) or the San Salvador Protocol but “derived” from the interpretation of other established rights. The legitimacy and validity of the Court’s legal position remained in question for several years. However, in 2020 in its decision “Indigenous Communities of the Lhaka Honhat Association v. Argentina”, the arguments of the Advisory Opinion under consideration were repeatedly cited and the decision was supported by the Chairman of the Court (on an equal vote 3 “for” and 3 “against”). The article also pays special attention to the genesis of the protection of environmental human rights within this region by the San Salvador Protocol of 1988 and the Escazu Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Environmental Justice in Latin America and the Caribbean of 2018.

About the authors: Alexander Solntsev – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Deputy Head of the Department of International Law in Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, Moscow, Russia; Anastasia Otrashevskaya – Ph.D. Student of the Department of International Law in Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Solntsev A., Otrashevskaya A. (2022) Razvitie kontseptsii ekologicheskikh prav cheloveka v praktike Mezhamerikanskogo suda po pravam cheloveka [Development of the concept of environmental human rights in the practice of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravo­sudie, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 57–78. (In Russian).


Abashidze A. Kh. (2004) Mezhamerikanskaya sistema zashchity prav cheloveka i problema zashchi­ty prav korennykh narodov [The Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights and the issue of protecting the rights of indigenous peoples]. Moskovskiy zhurnal mezhdunarodno­ go prava, no. 1, pp. 55–75. (In Russian).

Antoniazzi M. M., Navarro G. C. B. (2020) Tackling Inequality in Times of Pandemics: Right to Water in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law & International Law (MPIL) Research Paper, No. 2020-30, pp. 1–29.

Boyle A. (2021) Progressive Development of International Environmental Law: Legislate or Litigate? German Yearbook of International Law, vol. 62, no. 1, pp. 305–333.

Contesse J. (2019) Resisting the Inter-American Human Rights System. Yale Journal of Interna­tional Law, vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 179–237.

Feria-Tinta M., Milnes S. C. (2019) International Environmental Law for the 21st Century: The Constitutionalization of the Right to a Healthy Environment in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Advisory Opinion 23. Anuario Colombiano de Derecho Internacional, vol. 12, pp. 43–84.

Kozheurov Ya. S. (2012) Konsul'tativnaya yurisdiktsiya mezhdunarodnogo suda: opyt mezhamerikanskogo suda po pravam cheloveka [Advisory jurisdiction of the International Court: the experience of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights]. Rossiyskiy yuridicheskiy zhurnal, no. 4, pp. 95–107. (In Russian).

Lima L. C. (2020) The Protection of the Environment before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights: Recent Developments. Rivista giuridica dell’ambiente, no 3, pp. 495–522.

Papantoniou A. (2018) Advisory Opinion on the Environment and Human Rights. American Journal of International Law, vol. 112, no. 3, pp. 460–466.

Pasqualucci J. M. (2003) The Practice and Procedure of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pedersen O. W. (2018) The European Court of Human Rights and International Environmental Law. In: Knox J. H., Pejan R. (eds.) The Human Right to a Healthy Environment, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 86–96.

Ruiz-Chiriboga O. R. (2013) The American Convention and the Protocol of San Salvador: Two Intertwined Treaties: Non-Enforceability of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Inter-American System. Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 159–186.

Samvel G. (2020) Non-Judicial, Advisory, Yet Impactful? The Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee as a Gateway to Environmental Justice. Transnational Environmental Law, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 211–238.

Solntsev A. (2020) Priotkryvaya yashchik Pandory: analiz mneniya Komiteta po pravam cheloveka o “klimaticheskikh” bezhentsakh 2020 goda [Half-opening Pandora’s box: review of the Human Rights Committee’s 2020 view on climate refugees]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 41–54. (In Russian).

Solntsev A. M. (2021) Zashchita ekologicheskikh prav cheloveka: uchebnoe posobie [Protection of environmental human rights: a textbook], Moscow: Rossiyskiy universitet druzhby narodov. (In Russian).

Solntsev A. M. (2016) Ekologicheskie prava cheloveka po Mezhdunarodnomu paktu ob ekonomicheskikh, sotsial'nykh i kul'turnykh pravakh [Environmental human rights under the International Covenant on economic, social and cultural Rights]. Voprosy ekonomiki i prava, no. 95, pp. 38–44. (In Russian).

Solntsev A. M., Otrashevskaya A. M. (2020) Soglashenie Eskasu kak novyy etap v razvitii mekhanizmov zashchity ekologicheskikh prav cheloveka v regione Latinskoy Ameriki i Karibskogo basseyna [The Escazu Agreement as a new stage in the development of mechanisms for the protection of environmental human rights in the Latin American and Caribbean region]. Zhurnal zarubezh­ nogo zakonodatel'stva i sravnitel'nogo pravovedeniya, no. 6, pp. 146–161. (In Russian).

Tigre M. A. (2020) Inter-American Court of Human Rights Recognizes the Right to a Healthy Environment. ASIL Insights. Available at: (accessed: 14.03.2022).

Vega-Barbosa G, Aboagye L. (2018) A Commentary on the Advisory Opinion of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the Environment and Human Rights. DPCE Online, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 291–298.