Swiss protesters lose anti-nuclear action

European Court of Human Rights dismisses objections to Beznau power station

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg today dismissed a suit brought by eight Swiss citizens regarding possible dangers of living close to the Beznau nuclear power station in northern Switzerland. By a twelve to five majority, the judges ruled that the connection between the plant and physical danger to nearby residents was too tenuous. Greenpeace Switzerland today deplored the ruling and pledged to maintain a series of other legal challenges to nuclear power.

The case concluded today dates back to 1995 when the Swiss government granted an operating licence for the privately owned Beznau power station. Swiss and Austrian citizens unsuccessfully lodged over 18,400 objections to the plan. Once the power station had been approved, eight individuals launched a case in the Strasbourg court to win a ruling at the highest legal level.

On the first complaint levelled by the eight, the court today ruled that the applicants had not proved a personal risk. According to the judgement, the applicants appeared to accept that they were alleging not so much a specific and imminent danger in their personal regard as a general danger in relation to all nuclear power plants.

Consequently, the judgement continues, the court could not intervene in the second part of the complaint, which was that the applicants had had no possibility to present their case before a Swiss independent court. A court official stressed that this situation was exceptional amongst European countries in nuclear related cases.

The five judges who disagreed with the majority verdict argued that the court should have accepted the applicants' first complaint because it was impossible to prove that nuclear plants didn't harm people living nearby. This would have enabled the court to intervene in the complaint regarding the absence of a Swiss independent court for nuclear related cases.

Follow Up:
European Court of Human Rights, tel: +33 3 88 41 20 18; Greenpeace Switzerland, tel: +41 1 447 4141. The case is entitled "Athanassoglou and others v. Switzerland," reference REF00001457.

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