Friday 8 March 2024

Up in the Trees - Interim Measures and Environmental Protesters

A rather unusual request to Strasbourg: earlier this week, the European Court of Human Rights rejected a request for interim measures by a group of environmental protesters in France. The protesting people, known as √©cureuils (squirrels), have been up, at a height of 15 metres, in the trees in the Tarn region of France. They are trying to halt the felling of trees on the trajectory of a future motorway that would cross a stretch of forest land. In their application, in the case of Viard-Seifert and Others v. France (application no. 6024/24) they asked to Court as an interim measure to securing food and water supplies for them - currently halted by the police who are attempting to get the protesters down - as well as their safety. According to the Court's press release:

'Relying in particular on Article 3 of the Convention, they complained of the police measures being used to force them down from the trees. Their main argument was that the fact of depriving them of water, food and sleep amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment. They alleged there was an imminent risk of irreparable harm to their lives and health.

On 29 February 2024 the applicants had lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights under Rule 39 of its Rules of Court, requesting the adoption of a series of measures aimed, in particular, at securing their supply of food and water and ensuring their safety.'

After a quick back and forth between the parties, the Court's duty judge decided not to indicate interim measures. The press release does not indicate the exact reasoning, but the threshold criterion for interim measures is whether there would be "irreparable harm" to the rights under the ECHR. The choice for the protesters to stay in the trees or come down may have played a role there.

The activists have also alerted the special rapporteur on environmental human rights defenders under the Aarhus Convention, Michael Forst, to the issue. For more background info on the situation, see also this news release. According to local media, several 'squirrels' are still up in the trees.